It's been a fairly grim return to the Premier League for Aston Villa prior to this weekend, but the one bright spot in their season has been the form of Jack Grealish.
The midfielder has had no issues adapting to the Premier League after the club's spell in the Championship, being one of the most impressive creative midfielders in the division. He has registered seven goals and six assists in the league, decent numbers in a team that creates little in attack.
He has also broken an odd Premier League record. Even with six games still to play, Grealish has been fouled more this season than any other player in Premier League history.
It looks likely that he will leave Villa at the end of the campaign, being linked with moves to the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City. It has even been mooted that the club will seek a fee of £80million for their captain.
Despite this, not everyone is convinced that he is capable of playing at the top level.
Speaking on Sky Sports prior to the game against Liverpool, Graeme Souness said the amount times Grealish has been fouled this season points to a lack of ability to read the game. He also isn't buying the argument that this is simply down to a lack of quality teammates.
🗣 "A player who gets tackled that much is not seeing the picture quick enough. I'd of loved to play against him"
Graeme Souness on Jack Grealish pic.twitter.com/wigYamZsbJ
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) July 5, 2020
When I was playing I would not want to be the most fouled player in the Premier League. That means I'm holding onto the ball too long, that means I'm not seeing the picture early enough, I'm taking extra touches when I don't need to.
It means you're not saying the picture quick enough. There's no doubt about it. Yeah he's got ability, he's easy on the eye, silky on the eye.
But I'm yet to be convinced by him. I know he's got seven goals this season...
When I was being coached at Liverpool, I was told that I make the striker's mind up. With my body movement, the way I get the ball out of my feet, the way I'm shaping up to the ball, I'm making them run where they think I'm going to kick the ball.
I think that anyone that gets tackles that much and gets that many fouls isn't seeing the picture quick enough.
I always come back to it, being an old midfield player, would I have liked to play against him? I would have loved to play against [Grealish]. He allows me to get to him, he allows me to get physical with him.
I don't want to play against Paul Scholes, Xavi, Iniesta, those types of players, popping it off one and two touch.
I want to play against people like him because I know he's going to allow me to mess him around.
Souness makes some interesting points.
Grealish's style of play certainly does contribute to the amount of times he is fouled, but would also indicate that he holds onto the ball for too long. That can be detrimental to the team, especially if they are trying to attack at speed.
He was also by far the most fouled player in the Championship last season, a league where his teammates would have relatively been at a much higher level in relation to their opponents.
It is an interesting debate to have. Few doubt Grealish is a very talented player, but can his style be integrated in a top team? It is likely he would have to adapt in some manner. That could also come naturally with playing with better teammates.