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Despite wild [unconfirmed] rumours circulating on social media earlier in the week of a long layoff for Jack Grealish, initially at least, it looks less serious.
Grealish has been known to be nursing a number of minor knocks accumulated over many weeks, but this finally resulted in a breakdown in the latter stages of the 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns.
Grealish limped off in the closing stages against West Brom having struggled through most of the second half, with Villa then holding the lead.
Whilst many fans in opposition quarters are quick to accuse Grealish of going to ground too easily, he is also subject to blatant targeting in-game. The latter is readily dismissed.
Two recent examples include being cleaned out long after the ball had been played prior to El Ghazi’s goal at West Brom – as well as a reckless professional foul he suffered in the opening seconds of the Second City derby.
These types of challenges, from which referees are all too inconsistent in addressing in The Championship, are what annoy fans most of all. It also serves in Jack’s case a narrative of ‘diving’ or ‘going to ground’, which isn’t accurate.
Neither, of the examples above, and no doubt many before them, resulted in punishment for the opposition player. Indeed, the tackle Grealish sustained in the opening seconds of the victory over Blues, had it happened at any of point in the game, would surely have resulted in a card. Which begs the question; why? A foul is still a foul.
The impact isn’t just felt ‘in game’ for clubs like Villa, in that perpetrators get off without reprimand and that those players can then go on to impact that same game, but more subtly.
It’s the cumulative effect of such injuries that result in the gradual breakdown of players like Grealish.
The impact then pervades beyond single, poor challenges.
The effect for Villa is now two-fold.
What impact does Grealish’s absence have upon us sustaining upward momentum, our style and our attack? It would be deluded to think that whilst we still carry an enviable threat, that Grealish isn’t central to it ticking.
Secondly, is how Villa choose to manage any injury or injuries such as this, with the pressure of promotion necessity this season looming large.
Grealish’s absence from the Stoke game may in part be precautionary, with the player appearing prepared to play through the pain barrier over what is a crucial period in the campaign.
However, Villa are no doubt wise to the risks of playing key individuals whom risk making short-term injuries worsen into something more serious.
Indeed, historically we have previous on this [Dalian Atkinson for one…] and you can look to the wider game as to how promising careers have been curtailed by over-played when rest was warranted, or not properly enabling a full recuperation period following injury.