With Aston Villa now rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after 15 games, Remi Garde’s decision to omit Jack Grealish from Saturday’s fixture against Southampton spoke volumes.
A familiar gloom has descended upon Villa Park in recent weeks. Tim Sherwood, who took them to last season’s FA Cup final, is gone, whilst many the Villains' summer signings have failed to settle following the sale of Christian Benteke.
Whereas the negativity of former years was occasionally alleviated by a Benteke run of form, there is now genuine concern how Villa can possibly recover their season.
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In the Belgian striker’s absence, Grealish has adopted new responsibility at Villa - a duty the young midfielder seems unable to take on.
Garde will be all too aware of the need for Villa to gain momentum - and they almost did so without Grealish until Oriel Romeu's equaliser denied them all three points against the Saints.
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In a relegation-threatened squad, unity is essential and the former Lyon manager is sticking to his principles, insisting that Grealish must improve his behaviour both on and off the pitch.
The midfielder was exiled to the under-21s after footage emerged of him partying in Manchester following Villa's defeat to Everton on November 21.
Garde said, according to the Telegraph: "He (Grealish) knows and you could guess that he has to behave in the right way during that time. He knows what he has to do."
To date, this has been a frustrating season for the Midlands-born youngster. Having pledged his allegiance to England over the Republic of Ireland, whom he had represented at age-group level, Grealish has so far failed to build on his promising breakthrough year last season.
As a direct player able to take on players and provide a goalscoring threat, there is little doubting Grealish's talent. However, just a week after Ravel Morrison asked to return to England, thus terminating his three-year contract at Lazio within six months, Grealish must realise that talent is not enough.
With his boyhood club in desperate need, the young Englishman must take heed of Garde’s clear message and use his exile from the senior squad as a means of motivation to do better.
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