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Jack Grealish has Man City task to complete during international games

It’s been a whirlwind week for Jack Grealish, in which we have seen the highs and the lows.

After Wednesday, questions were starting to be asked of Britain’s most expensive ever footballer. Manchester City were victorious against Borussia Dortmund, but only jus,t and they only managed to turn things around once Grealish — as well as Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan — were taken off.

City were stifled by the visiting Germans, knocked off their usual rhythm and struggling to find openings against such a compact, well-marshalled defence. Hardly any Blues players were good in the opening hour but Grealish in particular struggled.

His shots were tame and blocked, his passing snatched at, he couldn’t beat a man and was often running into blind allies and looked generally bereft of confidence. As his third effort deflected out of play, he puffed out his cheeks in dejection.

It’s now been more than a year since City spent a humungous £100million to sign Grealish and, while many were willing to give him a season to get acclimatised to Pep Guardiola’s methods, Wednesday’s performance looked as if no progress had been made at all. Those questioning critics (this writer included) were quickly made to eat their words.

Guardiola defended Grealish in the days after the game, instead blaming his teammates’ lack of support on the pitch for his sub-par display, and stuck by him for the trip to Wolves. That decision was vindicated after just 55 seconds when Grealish turned in Kevin de Bruyne’s cut back to open the scoring. The relief was clear on Grealish’s face after finding the back of the net for the first time this season and it looked to be the perfect self-esteem booster.

As even more important than the strike, Grealish built upon it and enjoyed a really strong performance. The spark looked to be back. He was carrying the ball, gliding past sprawling tackles, involved in most of City’s bright attacks, linking well with the likes of Erling Haaland and Bernardo Silva. Even getting a studded boot forcibly inserted into his midriff didn’t put him off.

Grealish put in the sort of performance City spent so much to get him for. He admits himself that he hasn’t been at his best yet, with a lack of fitness this season being a concern, and hasn’t been contributing enough in the final third.

“I still don’t feel 100 per cent but I think this season, including pre-season, I have only played about five games and one full 90 minutes,” he said. “I don’t feel up to full fitness yet but hopefully that will come with more games that I play.

“I should be scoring and getting more assists. The only thing I can do is score and get assists. I’m always going to have people talking about me with the amount I got bought for. It’s something I do want to add to my game and playing with this team and in front of these fans, hopefully, I can.”

Grealish made a great start in that regard at Wolves, which makes the timing of the international break inopportune for him. Just as he caught a break and felt like he’d had an arrival performance for City, the brakes had to be put on his budding momentum. Or at least it seems.

While the rest of City’s international stars can go about their time away as normal, Grealish will have to work even harder to maintain that form he started to show at Molineux. If he can continue to put in some good displays while away with the Three Lions, he can return to the Etihad — for the Manchester derby no less — primed to really go and prove he was worth the money. Not to mention it will have the nice side effect of improving his chances of a starting berth at the World Cup.

Grealish has a lot of competition for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s side so he may not get a lot of minutes in the two upcoming Nations League games. But he needs to do all he can to play as much as possible so he can continue to build up his fitness and keep the ball rolling. It’d be a shame if it were to stop just after it finally got going.

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