Anwar El Ghazi has been somewhat of an enigma at Aston Villa during his loan, but needs to be more consistent in any remaining appearances if he wants the club to exercise his buy option.
Words by Harry Trend (@HazaTrand)
Anwar El Ghazi is Aston Villa’s enigma. The Dutch winger is comfortable on the ball, can beat a man with ease and has a rocket of a strike on him – as shown by his second against West Brom in November.
But for every good performance, there’s been a bad one. In defeats to Swansea, Wigan and Norwich the Dutchman offered little, but in the 3-3 home draw at home to Sheffield United El Ghazi put in his poorest display yet. With his confidence gone, the former Ajax man seemed to drift out of the game.
El Ghazi was the epitome of inconsistent in Villa’s draw away to Stoke too. The winger burst past two Potters players prior to setting up Albert Adomah for our equalizer, but in the same 90 minutes El Ghazi ballooned a one-on-one over the crossbar and over hit many a cross.
Is a lack of confidence the reason for El Ghazi’s poor form? Jeremy Smith, a French football writer, thinks so, labelling the 23-year old a “disappointment” at Lille. During his season and a half in Northern France, he scored six goals and grabbed four assists in 44 games – not a great output for someone tipped for future stardom at Ajax. Then again, in his only full season so far at Lille, the French club finished just one point off the relegation zone.
El Ghazi’s good form at Villa coincided with the incoming of Dean Smith. With the Pride on a high, the Dutchman seemed confident. Some even compared him to Cristiano Ronaldo – with similar movements and a tall, muscular build.
But once Villa’s fortunes took a downturn, so did El Ghazi’s. With less confidence in his teammates, the 23-year-old has felt inclined to take on one more man than is necessary before losing the ball.
You get the feeling that El Ghazi hasn’t fully bought into Smith’s way of playing yet, even with 17 games under the Villa boss. The winger rarely tracks back to help his full-back, this is something Smith has told him to work on. Also, a 79% pass completion rate isn’t high enough for Smith’s style of free-flowing football.
So where next for the Dutchman? Some have called for him to be deployed in an attacking midfield role to add some much-needed creativity to Villa’s midfield, but now with Jack Grealish back that looks less likely.
Either way, the next few months could decide if El Ghazi will scale the heights he was once tipped to reach.