EPL

Greal deal Jack steps up for Man City to land huge psychological blow in title race

By Sports Desk February 15, 2023

Jack Grealish joined Manchester City for moments like this.

Upon completing a £100million move from Aston Villa in August 2021 – a British-record fee that was eclipsed by Enzo Fernandez's move to Chelsea last month – Grealish was asked about his biggest motivation after leaving his boyhood club.

"Competing for major trophies is something that I wanted to do," he replied. "[The move] was something I couldn't turn down. Let's hope it is a successful one."

With a Premier League title under his belt from last season, Grealish had already achieved that aim. But after playing a peripheral part in that first triumph, the England international is starting to make far more of an impact this time around.

Never was that more evident than in Wednesday's top-of-the-table showdown with Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, in which his 72nd-minute goal helped City on their way to a 3-1 win that moved them above the Gunners in the table.

A poor Gabriel Magalhaes pass was pounced upon, and Grealish had the ball in the net seconds later to restore City's lead after Bukayo Saka's penalty had earlier cancelled out Kevin De Bruyne's opener. 

At 1-1 with less than a quarter of the pivotal clash to go, sitting three points clear with a game in hand to play, Arsenal would still have considered themselves title favourites. Grealish's goal, which Erling Haaland added to before full-time, changed the complexion of the title race entirely.

Grealish had impressed in spells up until his decisive moment, with no player on the field completing more dribbles (four), but it is goals and assists he was brought into the team to provide.

The 27-year-old admitted as much in a candid interview at the turn of the year when saying he never expected to find life at City so difficult. How quickly the narrative can change.

From scoring just one goal and providing no assists in eight Premier League appearances heading into the World Cup break, Grealish now has two goals and three assists in nine matches since.

Not that Arsenal were not already aware of his quality when he has the ball at his feet in the box, as he proved with an assist for Nathan Ake's winning strike when these sides met in the FA Cup last month.

Another telling Grealish contribution made Arsenal pay as they suffered an 11th successive league loss to City – their longest losing run against any opponent in their league history – and squandered top spot.

There will be plenty of twists and turns ahead, particularly with the two sides set to face off again at the Etihad Stadium in April, but City's pursuit of Arsenal has had a sense of inevitability about it. From eight points adrift a month ago, they are top on goal difference.

This was undoubtedly a huge psychological blow for Arteta's side, who did well to respond to a City lead that was self-inflicted as Takehiro Tomiyasu's blind pass was seized upon by De Bruyne. The Belgian needed only one touch to loop the ball over a stranded Aaron Ramsdale for his sixth league goal against his favourite opponents.

Arteta said on the eve of this match he would not be satisfied with an apology for the officiating in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Brentford until Arsenal were given their two dropped points back.

A controversial penalty award in Arsenal's favour might have gone some way to easing those tensions as Ederson was adjudged to have felled Eddie Nketiah, allowing Saka to convert his fourth successful spot-kick from four since his Euro 2020 heartbreak.

Another big call went Arsenal's way when a penalty awarded for Gabriel's challenge on Haaland was overturned by the VAR as the prolific striker was marginally offside. 

However, the referee was not the big talking point come the end of this huge tussle thanks to Grealish's crucial strike paving the way for what was a deserved victory in the end for Pep Guardiola's side.

Having already matched his tally for both goals and assists (three each) from the whole of last season's Premier League campaign, Grealish may yet prove to be City's difference-maker – even accounting for Haaland's goals – in a title race that looks set to go right down to the wire.

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    San Jose Earthquakes – Jeremy Ebobisse

    Ebobisse has scored five goals in seven career matches against Austin FC. Only Jesus Ferreira (6) has scored more MLS goals against the Verde.

    Austin – Sebastian Driussi

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    MATCH PREDICTION: SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES WIN

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    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    San Jose Earthquakes – 41.2%

    Draw – 28.6%

    Austin – 30.2%

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