Both clubs top the scoring charts in the second tier of English football and have a plethora of attacking talent amongst their ranks. So, expect both teams to pay their respects to Tony Pulis by playing out a goalless draw in this fiercely-contested derby.
Anyhow, here we are going to analyse both players’ attacking qualities and try to determine who is the better player amongst the two.
What They Do…
Leicester City loanee, Barnes and Villa academy product, Grealish have both played all 20 games in the Championship so far this season. The latter has racked up extra minutes on the field of play, with third-placed Albion currently four points ahead of their near neighbours.
In the above images (Barnes top & Grealish bottom), you can see both players’ heat maps for this campaign so far. It is pretty evident that Grealish is the harder worker of the two. Under Bruce, Grealish was Villa’s main focal point and he was tasked to do more defensive work for the recently-sacked manager. Now, under Dean Smith, he is assigned to constantly press the opposition high up the pitch.
As for Barnes, he has been deployed on the left and through the middle by Darren Moore this term. Even when playing through the middle, just like Grealish, Barnes likes to drift towards the left-hand side and has showcased a dangerous ability in hurting opposition defenders on the counter-attack.
An Overall Look…
In terms of finding the back of the net, Barnes has scored eight goals during this campaign, including the opening goal against Brentford on Monday night. As for Grealish, he has scored on two occasions, all under the stewardship of Smith, and most recently against bitter rivals Birmingham City. Both players also have two assists to their names.
When looking deeper into the statistics, Barnes is attempting more shots on goal per game (3.1) than his attacking counterpart (2.1). But, it is the former Republic of Ireland U21 international who stands out in the passing department. Grealish is attempting an average of 46 passes per match with an accuracy rate of 87%, whilst Barnes is attempting an average of 26 passes per game with an accuracy rate of 78%. As mentioned above, both players like to drift out wide and put crosses into the box. In this case, Barnes is putting in just over two crosses per game, and Grealish just under two.
Perhaps the strongest part of both players’ game is their ability to carry the ball and frighten opposition players. Grealish is attempting to dribble the ball eight times per match with a success rate of 85%. On the other hand, Burnley-born Barnes has a 76% success rate whilst attempting 6.55 dribbles per game.
As mentioned before, the duo have two assists to their name this season, with Grealish showcasing his ability to spend more time on the ball and Barnes being more efficient with his goalscoring. Continuing with the passing theme, Barnes is attempting an average of three passes per game into the final third of the pitch with a success rate of 61.6%. By contrast, the floppy-haired Grealish is attempting twice as much passes into third with a success rate of 82%. Barnes edges Grealish when it comes to passing the ball into the box. But, once again, Grealish is attempting more forward passes (13.96/81.7%) than Barnes (6.7/69%). However, it is Grealish who is also opting to pass the ball back more (9.37) than the Albion man (5.89).
Even further up the field, Barnes is averaging 3.4 touches per game in the opposition’s penalty area, with Grealish touching the ball on fewer occasions (2.17). The next statistic is perhaps the one that ignites the most debate amongst supporters when talking about Grealish. As Championship supporters would know, he is the most fouled player, by some distance, in the second tier of English football. He suffers nearly five fouls per game, twice more than Foxes academy product Barnes.
Grealish At His Best…
Whilst Grealish still needs to work on his final pass, the Solihull-born player’s pre-final pass, if you want to call it that, is one of his biggest strengths. Grealish has this knack of drawing in the opposition, playing the game at his own pace then releasing the ball.
As you can see from the image above, during the chaotic 5-5 draw at home to Nottingham Forest over a week ago, Grealish finds himself in possession of the ball in the middle of the park. He has two banks of four ahead of him, with not many options available to him other than playing a perfectly weighted pass to full-back Alan Hutton.
As Hutton runs into the space ahead of him, Grealish plays a near-perfect ball into the Scotsman’s path, with his attempted cross going out for a corner.
One area where Jack needs to improve his game is his goalscoring. The arrival of former Brentford man Smith has resulted in Jack making more forward runs, overloading in the penalty area and running beyond the striker.
As you can see from the illustration above, Grealish is on the shoulder of the Bolton defence, with striker Tammy Abraham picking up the ball slightly deeper from his usual position.
As Chelsea loanee Abraham beats his man, he plays a through ball to Grealish, who ends up rounding the goalkeeper and netting his first goal of the season.
In recent years, Grealish has been a regular set-piece taker for the club, with midfielder Conor Hourihane, summer acquisition John McGinn and last season’s loanee Robert Snodgrass also specialising in that area.
Once again, referring to the Forest game, Villa have a free-kick on the right-hand side as the ten-goal thriller takes another twist. As you can see from the pictures above, Grealish’s perfect delivery is headed home by Abraham, who ended up netting four goals during that encounter.
Grealish’s strongest area is without a doubt his ability to run with the ball and ensure it stays at his feet. In the image above, during Villa’s first leg play-off semi-final against Middlesbrough last season, Grealish picks up the ball deep into his area with four Boro players surrounding him.
He opts to take them all on as he goes on a mazy run, beating a number of opposition players along the way before he ends up in the penalty area where his attempted shot is blocked.
Barnes At His Best
Whilst Jack couldn’t finish off his solo run. Barnes has proven this season that he can talk with the ball in a not too dissimilar fashion.
During Albion’s clash at Sheffield Wednesday earlier on in the season, Barnes, as seen in the picture above, picks up the ball in his own half.
He drives forward with a number of Wednesday players surrounding him as they aim to close down the space in front of him.
To his credit, he continues his run, ends up in the penalty area, fools two players in front of him by cutting the ball onto his right foot before he slots the ball home.
Despite not possessing high passing numbers, Barnes can still pick out a pass when he is on one of his mazy runs.
As you can see from the two images above, the versatile midfielder picks up the ball on the halfway line with striker Dwight Gayle making a forward run ahead of him. The Foxes man attracts the attention of the Bristol City players before releasing the ball at the right time.
His perfectly weighted pass is finished home by Newcastle loanee Gayle as Albion continued to score for fun on home soil.
Perhaps one of the best things about Barnes’ qualities is his ability to talk with the ball with either foot.
In the first two images, Barnes plays a one-two with Jay Rodriguez before making a forward run in behind the opposition defence.
Former Southampton player Rodriguez picks out his teammate perfectly with the two-footed player opting to shoot with his right foot across the goalkeeper.
In a previous game against Bristol City, where Barnes was the provider, this time he ends up being the finisher.
In the previous example, he was showing that he could score with his right, this time he was proving that he can be equally better on his left as the images above dictate.
Understandably, supporters of both clubs will passionately back their player in being the best out of the two. There is no doubt that Barnes is proving to be one of the signings of the summer in the Championship with the way he is playing. On the other hand, whilst Grealish divides opinion, there is a big reason as to why Tottenham, and in particular Mauricio Pochettino, wanted to add him to their squad over the summer. Expect both Villa and Albion to be fighting for promotion at the end of the season and expect both Grealish and Barnes to be working their magic.
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