Pep Guardiola has defended Jack Grealish over his underwhelming Manchester City form, saying that Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan were among those who left the forward isolated during Wednesday’s Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund.
Guardiola replaced Grealish on 58 minutes, along with Gündogan and Riyad Mahrez, shortly after Jude Bellingham had scored the opener at the Etihad Stadium. City improved, as goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland turned the match around.
Grealish is yet to score or make an assist this season, having registered only six goals and four assists in 38 appearances in all competitions in his first City campaign. Guardiola was asked about the 27-year-old this season.
“He started really well but had to stop for a problem in the ankle,” the manager said. “Last game in the final third he was the only one up front who makes aggressive runs one against one, but to make assists he didn’t have his mates in the box so we left him isolated.
“When he goes against the full-back, only Erling was there. Gündo was not there, Kevin was not there and they should be. In the first half especially with the ball we didn’t make any movements to help the players who had the ball and give him more possibilities to make it easier.
“I’m more than happy and delighted with what he’s doing. Now it’s just a question of time to get back a little bit his momentum he had at the beginning of the season.”
Guardiola dismissed Grealish’s statistics. “We didn’t sign for the incredible goals or assists at Aston Villa. It was another reason and when he played he did it. I want [him] to make goals and assists and he does too. But it’s not about that, it’s about his contribution without the ball and what he can produce for the other ones.”
Guardiola is not concerned if Grealish is criticised from outside the club. “Always I say to them: ‘You know exactly how you played, what we were looking for – what was the plan of the game, if it works or didn’t work,’” he said. “‘So you don’t have to listen to what people say, whether you played good or bad. You know and every one of us knows if you did your best on this specific day.’”
Kyle Walker faces a fitness test for Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at Wolves.