Anwar El Ghazi will be looking to prove himself at an elite level on the world stage next season.
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Last season in the EFL Championship Anwar El Ghazi demonstrated why he was brought to Aston Villa, at the time on a loan capacity. The Dutch winger was a highly sought after player at the time, with more than a handful of clubs trying to get him in the door.
There was something about El Ghazi from the very start of his time at Aston Villa. In his first game for Villa, A 1-1 draw against Reading in late August saw El Ghazi gain an assist on an Ahmed Elmohamady goal. There was a lot of hope from the Aston Villa supporters last season… the hope to get promoted, the hope to find themselves back in the Premier League, the hope that there was something special happening. In hindsight, all of that hoping and praying paid off in spades.
It not only paid off for Villa supporters that wanted to see their club escape the sharp claws of the 2nd tier of English football, but also for the core group of players who yearned for Premier League football.
No football player on the planet wishes to play in lesser-tiers of continental footballing leagues. You want to play at the very top, no matter what happens. It is this kind of thinking that creates storylines of exceptional drama and motivation. From time to time, you hear about players who are told they are never good enough to play at an elite level and then as if by some sort of determination mixed with a pinch of luck, they start to show previously unseen quality and a will to succeed. And sometimes, just sometimes, players rise to the occasion when playing at the highest level they could achieve.
It would be wise to believe this is the case with one Anwar El Ghazi at Aston Villa. There are reasons to why El Ghazi was one of the first loanees from last season to return to Villa Park on a permanent basis. There are also reasons to why there hasn’t been an identifiable player other than Trezeguet who prefers to play in El Ghazi’s position on the left flank. A new broom can sweep the floor, but an old broom knows where the dirt is.
A way to put it as bluntly as possible: El Ghazi’s place in Dean Smith’s starting eleven is his to lose after his success of last season.
It is true that El Ghazi had a bit of a yo-yo campaign last year in terms of production, but it is worth noting that adapting to the English style of football is generally never easy for any foreign talent. Once El Ghazi figured out that supporters would love and adore him once he became more responsible on both sides of the pitch, all bets were off.
The prolific winger has an incredible work rate, finds a way to beat a defender one-on-one and has Dutch flair for miles. The style of El Ghazi on a football pitch is a joy to watch most games, almost creating a Jack Grealish meets Arjen Robben type of player. El Ghazi can blast a long shot past a keeper, cut inside to throw off an entire defence’s structure and create short yet meaningful key passes. In 38 games for the Villans last season, El Ghazi made 44 key passes. That landed him for 5th most key passes in the entire team. Villa are going to need more of the same from him in the Premier League and it looks as though that’s exactly what El Ghazi will continue to do.
Remembering back on one of El Ghazi’s goals against West Bromwich Albion in December of last season, nothing could have been more picturesque for himself and for Villa supporters. After firing a rocket into the top left-hand corner of the goalmouth, El Ghazi backpedalled away from his teammates in jubilation. Aggressive hand motions to his chest, then the pitch laid before his feet, then back to his chest again was symbolism at it’s finest. The gesticulation of celebration shouted, “I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.” It was at this moment that El Ghazi won over most of the loving, yet sometimes rabid Aston Villa supporters.
Months later, no one could have foreseen El Ghazi scoring the opening goal at Wembley in a Play-Off Final to secure Aston Villa’s promotion back into the Premier League. Now, the 24-year old has a chance to silence his critics while showing off his quality on one of the greatest stages in his profession, the Premier League.
The stage is yours, Anwar.