Jack Grealish can use his goal at Wolves on Saturday as a platform for more to come with Rio Ferdinand hailing the Manchester City player for immediately silencing his doubters.
The £100m man has come in for some strong criticism of late, having scored just six times in 43 appearances for the club. That agenda has stepped up in recent days following the 27-year-old’s underwhelming display against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
He was withdrawn after 58 minutes, though Pep Guardiola has fiercely been defending the British record signing.
“He started (the season) really well but had to stop for a problem in the ankle and we were lucky it was not worse,” Guardiola said on Friday.
“In the last game in the final third he was the only one up front who made aggressive runs one against one, but to make assists he didn’t have his mates in the box, so we left him isolated.
“I know him and 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 of his momentum that he had at the beginning of the season.”
Guardiola added: “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.
“We didn’t sign Jack Grealish for the incredible goals or assists at Aston Villa. It was for another reason.
“He competes with top, top players as well and he knows it perfectly. He never complains about that.
“He’s such a nice guy and in the games when he didn’t play, he’s the first to help the team. I’m delighted with his behaviour and everything.”
Jack Grealish earns pundits’ praise
And it took Grealish just 55 seconds at Molineux to open the scoring, the midfielder arriving in the six-yard box to convert Kevin de Bruyne’s cross.
Jermaine Jenas: “It was a smart finish and he will have really enjoyed that one, coming in the West Midlands. He’s come in for a lot of criticism, and people just want to see the numbers now.”
Jenas though thinks there is more to Grealish’s game than the numbers suggest and was quick to praise his performance midway through the half.
“He’s enjoying himself out there and that’s a problem for Wolves.
“He’s popping up everywhere. Grealish has been on the left, the right, through the middle… He can drop back into midfield – so too Phil Foden – it’s a very fluid system.”
Grealish was again the central figure on 33 minutes when Nathan Collins was shown a straight red card for an awful lunge into the player’s middriff.
Jenas added: “Just stand your ground, it’s a bouncing ball. You’ve got to be smarter there. It’s a challenge born out of frustration.”
Rio Ferdinand advice for Man City star
Rio Ferdinand: It’s a nightmare start for Wolves. Their team talk will have been about containing [City’s threat], and trying to be a force for themselves.
“This is not what you want. Foden, wide area, teasing, great ball – tantalising ball – from Kevin De Bruyne. But this is the areas you want Jack Grealish in. A lot of the talk before the game… this is what you want from players, answering criticism and questions about them immediately like this.
“These are the areas he needs to get into – that’s where you score your goals. You don’t see him there often enough, but he has today and that’s a great start for him.”
Upon his withdrawal in the 77th-minute, Jenas added: “It’s been a good day for Jack Grealish. He’s got a big smile on his face. But he’s got to work his way up to not looking over his shoulder whenever the substitutes board goes up. Today will help – it’s a big step in the right direction.”