Anwar El Ghazi, in Jack Grealish’s words, is “back”. And he’s continuing his strong form at The Hawthorns.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrand
Despite criticism in recent months, Dean Smith outlined how his team was 100% behind Anwar El Ghazi after Aston Villa’s 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion despite missed chances at home to Burnley three days previously. “He got no stick from the dressing room, his performance levels were good against Burnley. Let’s remember he hadn’t played 90 minutes in a while before that, but he scored two goals today and we’re all pleased for him.”
El Ghazi very much deployed a shoot on sight policy in the Clarets stalemate, the Dutchman failing to find the net from eight attempts. On one hand, there were self-fashioned efforts like that thunderous free-kick which Tom Pope expertly tipped onto the crossbar, but on the other hand, there were more guilt-edged chances; guilt-edged chances such as when the Villa winger made it all too easy for Pope to save a one on one at the near post. This was not the only clear opportunity El Ghazi had against the Clarets, with the Villa winger seemingly lacking in composure at times.
“Against Burnley I was upset, I should’ve scored at least two,” reflected El Ghazi. Nonetheless, the Dutchman confessed a sense of relief at his two goals at home to the Baggies, feeling he “had to do something right.”
The 25-year-olds display in Villa’s 3-0 away win showed he had not let his Burnley misses get to him. In assuming penalty responsibilities in the previous week away to Wolves, you can safely say courage isn’t something El Ghazi is lacking in.
El Ghazi’s first goal tonight highlighted his determination. The Dutchman making a darting run to the back post before connecting with Bertrand Traore’s cross with the outside of his right foot to put Villa ahead.
The Hawthorns seems to be a happy hunting ground for El Ghazi. Two years ago the Villa winger bagged a brace in West Bromwich. The brace including a rocket of a shot from outside the box which flew into the top corner. Between these two years, you get the feeling El Ghazi has never quite convinced Villa fans as a collective. Yes there’s been highs; the play-off final opener and a late goal in the Pride’s 2-0 win at home to Everton good examples, but inconsistent is a word often attributed to the Dutchman since his £8 million pound move from Lille.
But El Ghazi manifested that swaggering confidence from two years ago in his performance against Sam Alladyce’s men. The Dutchman worked well with Matt Targett down the left but also wasn’t afraid to veer inside to test Sam Johnstone with a long ranger.
Yes there were a couple of wayward touches, but for every wayward one there was a clean take; thus exemplified when using the momentum from Targett’s pass to beat Dara O’Shea with his right prior to forcing Johnstone into a smart save with his left.
And with two minutes left El Ghazi would match his goal tally from two years ago, allowing the West Brom keeper to make his move before striking his penalty down the middle to seal the points for Villa.
Ultimately, you’d have to say that, when Villa have a fully fit side, just one starting place is up for grabs between El Ghazi, Traore and Trezeguet. For now Anwar has to convince Dean Smith that he’s more than a player on the periphery of the starting XI.
However, El Ghazi will get plenty more chances to do so in the coming weeks.