Jack Grealish and Mason Mount: Assessing Who Should Be Considered the Better Player

Oct 14, 2020, 4:00 PM GMT+1
Jack Grealish, Mason Mount
Fierce debate has emerged regarding Jack Grealish and Mason Mount | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images
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This is all Gareth Southgate's fault. I'm sorry but it is.

Instead of a footballing nation being able to appreciate a pair of talented innovators amid the emergence of mightily exciting English generation, the Three Lions string-puller's overlooking of one and frequent appreciation of the other has established this strange divide within the country.

Gareth Southgate
It's fair to say Gareth Southgate is an admirer of the Chelsea midfielder | Michael Regan/Getty Images

The whole Jack Grealish and Mason Mount debacle is very secondary school-like, with Southgate serving as the Headmaster whose favouritism towards the diligent, hard-working student over the cocky maverick with his slicked-back hair and low cut football socks is there for all to see.

It's this distinct favouritism towards Mount which has, perhaps, rightly infuriated many when Grealish, who, in the eyes of many, is viewed as the more unique and unpredictable talent but isn't handed the sort of opportunities - or praised by the England boss - as his Chelsea counterpart.

So, as a country debates, it's about time we got ourselves involved here at 90min to provide you - and Southgate - with a definitive answer: who is the better player, Mason Mount or Jack Grealish?

Let's take a plunge.

Creativity

Mason Mount, Dedryck Boyata
Mason Mount fits under the Raumdeuter profile | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Creativity is a fairly ambiguous term in that assist tallies, 'key passes' and chances created shouldn't merely define one's creative prowess.

Instead, a player's vision, spatial awareness, ball manipulation and capacity to progress play should all be assessed too.

Mount falls under the Thomas Muller, Kai Havertz and Dele Alli category of being the sort of player who isn't appreciated unless he's churning out impressive goal and assist tallies. While there are stylistic differences compared to the aforementioned Raumdeuters, Mount is nonetheless a midfielder whose movement and capacity to exploit space are his main sources of creativity.

The Chelsea man's utterly brilliant off the ball but his technique in possession shouldn't be overlooked. He especially excels from set-piece situations.

Mount's a dynamic playmaker who's certainly a superior dribbler than he is a passer. The 21-year-old's adept at wriggling out of tight spaces via impressive ball manipulation and capable of altering the pace of his side's attacks to catch out opposing defences - see Olivier Giroud's goal at Aston Villa last season.

From a number's perspective, since the start of last season Mount's notched four assists, racked up 9,975 yards in progressive distance (from passes and dribbles) while his shot-creating actions per 90 minutes sits at 3.64.

Grealish, meanwhile, tops him on all three counts. His numbers lie at nine, 17,071 yards (9,907 of which were from ball carries alone) and 5.725 respectively. While the Aston Villa star isn't as shrewd with his movement, there's no doubting that he's the superior creator.

Overall, Grealish is certainly more refined than Mount - regarding decision-making and execution - in the final third from a creative standpoint and also possesses greater variation than the Chelsea man.

Finishing

Jack Grealish, Adrian
The underlying numbers suggest Grealish is on an upward trajectory as a goalscorer | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Okay, so now we can rely a bit more on figures here.

Grealish's evolution under Dean Smith at Villa Park has seen him morph into a relatively reliable customer in front of goal. Prior to 2018/19, his highest single season tally in terms of goals was five. He's since notched six and eight goal returns before starting 2020/21 with three strikes in as many games.

Mount, on the other hand, has enjoyed more consistent returns following his emergence out of the Chelsea academy. The 21-year-old has produced nine, eight and seven goal returns in his last three full seasons, with his confidence from distance combined with his supreme technique helping him towards theses tallies.

However, Mount's composure in and around the penalty box undoubtedly lets him down, and that's reflected by his xG underperformance by 0.2 last term. By contrast, Grealish outperformed his xG by 1.5 which indicates that the Villa man is the more relaxed and clinical finisher. Villa's star was averaging a goal every 0.36 shots on target last term compared to Mount's 0.24.

Versatility

Dean Smith, Jack Grealish
Grealish has evolved under Dean Smith in regards to his role | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Mount showed off his capacity to function in a variety of systems and roles under Frank Lampard last season. While he's arguably at his best in a number ten spot, the 21-year-old also effectively served as a number eight in a 4-3-3 and as an inside forward in a 3-4-3 - standing out in the latter role against Tottenham last December.

It's Mount's space interpretation which allows him to function effectively as an inside forward - where he can penetrate the half-spaces - and that's where Southgate attempted to line him up against Belgium at the weekend.

Generally, though, Mount - when utilised as a ten or an eight - likes to operate in similar zones to Grealish, often drifting over towards the left-hand side.

The 25-year-old often lines up as a left-winger in a 4-3-3 under Dean Smith but can also be utilised in a mezzala role or as a number ten.

Grealish loves to drift infield and take up positions between the lines where he can open up angles for progression before embarking on determined ball-carries himself. He's similarly versatile to Mount and overall, there's nothing to separate the pair here.

Defensive Nous

Mason Mount, Frank Lampard
Father and son rejoice | Visionhaus/Getty Images

There's nowhere to hide in the modern day in the defensive phase for attackers. With gegenpressing a particular trend of the 2010s, the concept of defending from the front has reached new heights in regards to importance.

This is where Mount shines and is, arguably, the main reason why both Lampard and Southgate view the 21-year-old as an adopted son. He's a manager's dream in that he provides tremendous energy out of possession and is capable of overwhelming opponents through his intensity high up the field. Mount's the key cog in Lampard's counter-pressing machine at Stamford Bridge.

Since the start of 2019/20, Mount averages 6.695 successful pressures and 2,805 tackles and interceptions per 90. He's an astute reader of the game.

Grealish, though, is no liability in the defensive phase. Like Mount, the Villa man is impressive defending in transition and also shows a distinct willingness to win back possession no matter where the ball is on the pitch. You could say his defensive work is more chaotic compared to Mount's, but the desire is undoubtedly there.

He too has rather impressive defensive numbers; averaging 5.5495 successful pressures and 1.71 tackles and interceptions per 90 but we're handing this round to Mount.

Conclusion

Jack Grealish
Grealish deserves a bigger role in the England set-up | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

It's Mason Mount's capabilities off the ball and raumdeuter profile which have ultimately seen him thrust to the forefront of Frank Lampard's and Gareth Southgate's plans but Jack Grealish just has to be recognised as the superior player.

Ultimately, Villa's protagonist is blessed with an edge of your seat skill set and is a talent capable of injecting a fresh, exciting dynamic into Southgate's rather functional and formulaic Three Lions.

But we shouldn't overlook Mount by any means. To little fault of his own, the 21-year-old's been subject to plenty of unjust criticism as of late.

While perhaps less spectacular than Grealish, Mount nonetheless boasts an impressive repertoire and there's little doubting that he deserves to be in Southgate's plans for the national team...but why don't we give maverick Jack more of a go first, eh, Gareth?

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