Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has admitted that Jack Grealish has felt the pressure of his £100million transfer fee.
The midfielder scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Wolves to answer growing criticism about his output.
It was just his fourth top-flight goal for City since joining for a record fee from Aston Villa last year and Guardiola conceded it has weighed on him.
He said: “Yeah, maybe. We have to admit it. He has to be who he is, that is all. Good moments, bad moments everyone has.
“The important thing is ‘I am Jack Grealish, I play like I am. I go there with a good mentality and try to do the best for myself to help all of us’. That is all I want for him and everyone.”
Erling Haaland and Phil Foden also netted while Nathan Collins was sent off for Wolves for a reckless foul on Grealish.
Guardiola also gave Manuel Akanji his Premier League debut and was impressed with the summer signing from Dortmund.
He said: “He was more than exceptional, win all the duels in the build-up, read perfectly when the play was short or long, he is so, so clever and when he goes, he goes, but he doesn’t go too much to give away penalties or fouls.
“He is so aggressive to go close to the opponent but then has the tempo to control the situation. From day one we felt he gets it.”
Speaking last week, Grealish admitted that recent criticism of his recent performances is justified.
After scoring against Wolves, the 27-year-old said: “It’s been a long time coming.
“I think it was the West Ham game at the back end of last season [when I last scored]. It was nice to get off the mark for this season and to do it so early and get the three points.
Asked about the criticism, Grealish responded: “Rightly so. I should be scoring more, I should be getting more assists so the only thing I can do is try to score and get assists.
“I’m always going to have people talking about me because of the amount I got bought for but if you look at my whole career, I probably haven’t scored as much as certain people. It’s something that I do want to add to my game.”
BBC pundit Garth Crooks was a fan of Grealish’s display against Wolves, saying it was “his best performance for City” since leaving Aston Villa.
“To hear Jack Grealish admit that the criticism he’s received about his lack of goals and assists since his arrival at Manchester City was fair was not only refreshing but very honest,” Crooks said.
“Against Wolves the England international had his best performance for City since he left Villa Park.
“It wasn’t just his willingness to get in the six-yard box where it hurts that was impressive, but his link-up play with Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland was telling – a further indication he’s no longer intimidated by his surroundings and finally starting to settle in and produce his best work.”
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