Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has taken his performances to a whole new level this season but there are still elements of his game he can improve, manager Dean Smith said.
The England midfielder, who had been linked with a move to Manchester United before committing his long-term future to Villa in September, has scored five goals and provided seven assists in the Premier League this season.
His performances have helped Villa climb to ninth on 22 points, four behind fourth-placed Everton but having played two games less than the Merseyside club.
“He is on another level, he’s playing wonderful football,” Smith said at a news conference ahead of their home game against Crystal Palace later on Saturday.
Grealish was at his best against West Bromwich Albion in last Sunday’s 3-0 win, said Smith.
“At West Brom it looked like he was playing in the playground with his mates. His performance was fantastic … and we need to keep pushing him and squeezing even more out of him where he can. He’s a joy to watch at the moment,” he added.
While he usually plays wide on the left, Grealish has been deployed in a more central role for Villa in recent weeks and Smith has been pleased with the response.
“He has done really well as a No. 10,” Smith said. “But there are still improvements. Sometimes he picks the ball up a little bit too deep. He wants to be involved in the game all the time.”