Jack Grealish says the move to Manchester City was “much more difficult” than he had anticipated after taking part in the team’s crucial 1-0 win over Chelsea.
Grealish broke the UK transfer record when he joined City from Aston Villa for a fee of £100m ($138m) in 2021.
He has struggled with form since then – scoring four goals and registering six assists in Premier League games – but there was no doubting the England international’s impact on Thursday.
With 30 minutes remaining at Stamford Bridge, Grealish came off the bench and produced a superb cross to find Riyad Mahrez, who tapped in from close range for the winning goal.
“I had been at Villa all my life and never had to change, I was always used to it,” Grealish told Sky Sports as he reflected on his past 18 months with Man City.
“I hadn’t realized how difficult it is to adapt to another team and another manager. When I got here, I’ll be honest with you, it was so much harder than I thought.
“In my head I was thinking: I’m coming to a team that’s top of the league, I’m going to get so many goals and assists. Obviously that’s not the case, it’s so much more difficult.
The victory, which put Man City five points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal, demonstrated the depth of manager Pep Guardiola’s side.
Even when Erling Haaland – the team’s star striker who didn’t touch the ball for the first 20 minutes – had a relatively calm evening, Guardiola was able to turn to Grealish and Mahrez on the bench to complete a run winner of the game to play.
“I’m a genius,” Guardiola then joked when asked about the substitutions he made in the second half. It came after a frustrating 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday, in which Guardiola made no change until the 87th minute.
The win came at an important time in Man City’s season. His next two Premier League games are against Manchester United and Tottenham on January 14 and 19 – potentially tough competitions as the defending champions look to close the gap on a top-flight Arsenal side.
Chelsea, meanwhile, continue to struggle under Graham Potter and have now won just one of their last eight Premier League matches.
The latest defeat means the Blues are 10th in the table with another game against Man City in the FA Cup next Sunday.