Words by Emmanuel Gebreyes
Jack Grealish, 24, and John McGinn, 25, are the best CM duo outside the traditional top 6, better than Leicester's 8 and 10 pair in their 4-1-4-1, better than Everton's, West Ham's and Wolves' two and here's how.
Grealish and McGinn have been a vital stay in Dean Smith's side in their hope to avoid the deep abyss of relegation; financially and emotionally. Grealish and McGinn, when playing either side of Nkamba, have been providing some marvellous performances for the Brummy club this season. In terms of chance creation McGinn in 720 mins (8 apps) has been putting up 1.38 key passes per 90 mins (0.88 KP90 from open play) which is low for an attacking central midfielder but as Grealish creates more and efficient chances it leaves him leeway. The Scotsman's main spark is his goal scoring ability with his 3 goals and a decent expected goals (XG) of 1.61, taking 3 shots P90 (1 from outside the box P90) so far this season. Although his goal tally will most definitely drop, an XG of 1.61 in 8 games informs us that should he carry on with this form he is to hit around the 10 goal mark by the end of the season, that would be impressive and quite intriguing for struggling upper table clubs in the summer.
As for Jack Grealish in 540 mins (6 apps) at CM, his role is to create as oppose to score, the uncapped international is putting up an expected assist (XA) of 1.99 (XA of 1.97 from open play) and 3.16 KP90 (2.83 KP90 from open play) and until Wesley takes more of his half chances supplied from Grealish, expect to see his assist numbers to plateau.
In the next couple of years if a team with a clinical forward purchases the CM/left winger, like a Spurs say, Harry Kane would convert those good and half chances by Grealish, bumping his stats up a level.
To compare Grealish and McGinn's numbers to hotly tipped, young Belgian playing for Leicester; Youri Tielemans in his 717 mins (8 apps) at CM has supplied 1 goal and 1 assist for the Foxes resulting in an XG and XA of 1.15 and 0.93 respectively, these stats are not swayed by set piece involvement as he is not the assigned player for that particular job. His chance creation is not near to Aston Villa's pair with 9 KP90. Although as his XA is similar to McGinn's the few chances created by Tielemans are of high quality. Bearing this all in mind Tielemans is 2 years younger than Grealish and McGinn therefore has time to improve at a more equipped side with a more adept manager in Leicester and Brendan Rodgers. Expect Aston Villa to stay in the Premier League and to struggle to keep their two talented creators in Birmingham.