Pep Guardiola believes Jack Grealish has played better for Manchester City than he is giving himself credit for – but still wants to see more.
Grealish has said he has found the transition to City since his British record £100million move from Aston Villa in the summer tougher than expected.
The England midfielder has scored twice in 15 appearances in all competitions for Guardiola’s side.
“I’ve found it a lot more difficult than I thought I would, adapting to a different manager and team-mates,” the 26-year-old told the Daily Telegraph.
“At first I thought I’d have more of the ball, get more assists and goals, but it doesn’t work like that at all. I’ve had nowhere near as much of the ball as I used to get at Villa ”
City boss Guardiola feels that is a harsh assessment.
The Spaniard said: “My opinion is he’s been playing much better than he or other people believe, when you see his actions.
“I would say he’s settled perfectly. Always you need a bit of time but, if you analyse the games, has he played bad? Absolutely not.
“With the quality he has it’s difficult to play bad but, with the way we play, with the expectations, [playing] every three days, it is completely different from what he did in Birmingham.”
Asked if it could be next season before Grealish produces his best for City, Guardiola said at a press conference: “I don’t think so, [or] we’ll be in trouble. We have to see it right now, the best.
“We have six or seven months and a lot of nice things ahead of us. I’m not thinking we’re going to see the best Jack Grealish next season. I want to see it this season, absolutely.”
Grealish has missed City’s last three games with a knock sustained during the recent international break but hopes to return for the champions’ Premier League trip to former club Villa on Wednesday.
He will be given a fitness test ahead of the game, although any action is likely to come from the bench.
It remains to be seen what sort of reception he will receive at Villa Park but Guardiola’s selection will not be influenced by the possibility it could be a negative one.
“As much booing they are going to make at Jack is [a reflection of] how much they love him,” Guardiola said. “Normally that happens. My team selection depends if they [players] are fit.”
Guardiola believes Grealish has fitted in well at City. The boss has previously said he would speak to Grealish about his lifestyle, but he insists this is a conversation he has with all new players.
He said: “I know how perfect he lives his life, I don’t have doubts about that. I speak with every player when they arrive.
“He’s top. I could not imagine such a big star from Aston Villa would come with such humility and want to listen and learn. So far he is perfect.
“I will push him and demand of him for sure, but that’s my job.”