A different story for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish ahead of Leeds United clash and an 'inspired piece of business'

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This season is a different story for Jack Grealish and ahead of tonight's clash with Leeds United Aston Villa are reaping the benefits of both his form and an 'inspired piece of business.'

The Villains welcome Marcelo Bielsa's men back to Villa Park tonight for an 8pm kick-off, having won all four of their Premier League games so far this season.

We spoke to Luke Hatfield, digital sports journalist for the Express and Star, for an insight into tonight's hosts, their main men and their stellar start to the season.

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YEP: Has anything about Grealish's performances, position or play changed from last season?

LH: In terms of positioning, Grealish is being utilised in the role we saw him for the majority of last season, off the left of a front three. However, he's a left winger in the loosest term possible.

He'll certainly start the game there and do his defensive duties on the left flank, but when Villa are in possession of the ball, he can pop up anywhere on the pitch. He's regularly seen as deep as the Villans' own penalty area looking to get on the ball, and he can appear central or on the opposite flank too.

What's really benefitted Jack is the strength added in attacking and midfield areas throughout the side. Previously, teams could essentially double or even triple up on Grealish, and ultimately that would leave the side struggling. It's a different story this season.

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A fully fit John McGinn alongside new signings Ollie Watkins, Bertrand Traore and Ross Barkley offer Villa many more attacking outlets, giving Grealish more room to operate. Add to this the improved form of Egyptian wideman Trezeguet, and Grealish now has a supporting cast with plenty of ability - which essentially stop teams only focusing on him.

STELLAR START - Aston Villa have won all four of their opening Premier League games and are reaping the benefits of a different story for Jack Grealish. Pic: GettySTELLAR START - Aston Villa have won all four of their opening Premier League games and are reaping the benefits of a different story for Jack Grealish. Pic: Getty
STELLAR START - Aston Villa have won all four of their opening Premier League games and are reaping the benefits of a different story for Jack Grealish. Pic: Getty

YEP: What has Barkley brought to the side?

LH: Ross Barkley is looking like an inspired piece of business, and he's shown just why Dean Smith made the move to bring him in after just a couple of outings in claret and blue.

He's another player who can carry the ball in midfield, further alleviating the reliance on Grealish - but as he showed against Liverpool and Leicester, he's also a legitimate goal threat who offers added bite and physical presence to the midfield.

He and Jack seem to have clicked almost instantly, which helps - and that bodes well for Smith following the club's fantastic start to the season, as you'd imagine they could gel even more before long.

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His arrival also means that Villa have more depth on the bench, as Conor Hourihane now plays back-up and can come on with half an hour to go and bring a wicked set piece delivery as well as his own goal threat from deep.

YEP: Anyone else in form?

LH: There are plenty of Villa players with confidence right now thanks to the unbelievable start to this season.

Trezeguet offers pace and a great engine on the right flank, he was one of the heroes towards the end of last season too with his goal contributions. He's a pacey customer too so can cause full backs all kinds of problems.

At the back Villa are in fine fettle too. Emiliano Martinez has come in between the sticks and immediately showed his worth, saving from the spot in the opener with Sheffield United, and proving a calm and solid presence behind a back four who suddenly look a really strong outfit.

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Tyrone Mings gets most of the plaudits, but Ezri Konsa alongside him has been mightily impressive. The two look like an incredibly good partnership at centre back, and they're assisted well by Douglas Luiz, who sits just in front and has been fantastic in that role since lockdown.

YEP: Anyone out injured?

LH: Apart from the long-term absentees in Wesley and Tom Heaton (both with ACL injuries), it's pretty much a clear bill of health. Kortney Hause is the only other absentee, who's suffering with a groin issue.

Barkley was touch and go for the Leicester game, but played the whole 90 there and came through it, Keinan Davis is back training after a calf injury too, so he should be back on the bench.

Henri Lansbury won't be featuring as he didn't make the cut for Smith's 25-man PL squad.

YEP: Likely formation and style of play?

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LH: Dean Smith has only rarely verged from his coveted 4-3-3 formation, and given the start don't expect that to change anytime soon.

In terms of style of play, you can expect Villa to look to try and break Leeds down incisively with the ball on the floor. They're more than capable of breaking on teams with pace, and on top of that you have Grealish who will pull the strings when the ball's in their possession. Don't be shocked to see Matt Targett and Matty Cash bombing on at times to provide service for Watkins.

When Leeds have the ball, expect to see Villa showing their resilient side.

YEP: Ambition this season?

LH: For Villa, the ambition for this year has always been to avoid a relegation scrap. They only made it by the skin of their teeth last time around, and nobody at the club has any desire to be looking over their shoulders in the final weeks and months of the season.

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The start has got fans dreaming of all sorts, but I'd imagine the club would be quite content with a solid mid-table finish down to around 12th-13th.

Villa have showed plenty of promise to get the campaign going though, I personally think that given they stay fit that they could legitimately battle into the top half of the table.

They certainly have the players to cause surprises against the big sides now, which we've seen already - we're yet to see if they can truly maintain their good form, if they do that it could be a special season at B6.

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