Ahmed Elmohamady has already doubled his goal contribution tally of last season, and scored two goals – so why is he enjoying a new lease of life as a winger?
Words by Matt Blogg (@Blogg_Matt)
Ahmed Elmohamady registered 3 goal contributions last season, all of which were assists from right back, but this season he has been deployed more as a winger and has already contributed directly to 6 goals, even scoring 2 himself. So why is the man that last season always seemed to over-hit crosses and never offered too much threat going forward suddenly thriving in an attacking role?
Firstly, he is simply being allowed to get in the positions. Last season as a right back he was pretty consistent defensively and our attackers did their jobs, so the thought of playing Elmohamady as a winger wouldn’t have crossed many people’s minds. But come day one of the 2018/19 season and the Egyptian would be playing right wing away at Hull and would register his first Aston Villa goal. So with freedom to actually venture into dangerous positions it looks as though Elmohamady can finish
and cause some damage to opposition defences (although Mr Hutton did also score that day so that is not conclusive evidence of a world-beating attacker). But add to that his goal against Reading where he made a genuinely intelligent attacking run to get on the end of the cross and head home, and you can begin to see why both Bruce and Smith have used him as an attacker rather than as a defender.
Another reason why he is flourishing so much is probably because for some reason nobody is performing well enough to take his place. Bolasie hasn’t had a great run in the team yet and you’d hope that when he does he can start out-performing a makeshift winger, but for now he hasn’t done enough to shift Elmohamady from the starting eleven. Like-wise with Anwar El Ghazi. He hasn’t played too much yet, but even when he has there hasn’t been too much to suggest that he would be a much better pick than Elmohamady, so the Egyptian is quite easily keeping his place.
Can you imagine the uproar if Elmohamady played right wing last season instead of Snodgrass, our most consistent attacking performer? Exactly, but that is our problem this year. We don’t have anybody better at the minute than Elmohamady, so why shouldn’t he keep his place? He is playing consistently well, creating chances and has so far got decent numbers for the season, so let him play.
Finally, the fact that we are playing formations with isolated strikers means Elmohamady is seeing a lot (and I mean a lot) of the ball out on the wing, as if the midfielders aren’t pinging it wide for him to cross, then the striker is doing it themselves before spinning and attacking the ball that he has whipped in. This explains the assists, and the fact that there are 2 wingers on a team explains his
goals (his one against Reading anyway). The wingers have clearly been told to get the ball in the box if they have it, and to attack the box if the other one has it, so with the number of crosses Villa are putting into the area, the number of goals we are scoring is no surprise, and the fact that we have such high numbers for headed goals is not exactly shocking.
The only shock is that Elmohamady is getting in on the act some-what consistently.
He is currently joint with Conor Hourihane as Villa’s highest goal-contributor this season, and the fact that he has been given such an important attacking role is a huge reason for this. He was always an attacking full-back when given the opportunity, and now as a winger he is looking comfortable and confident, so as long as Elmohamady keeps putting crosses on people’s heads, Villa fans will have no complaints. If you can score goals and register assists, you are well worthy of being a winger for Aston Villa.