The El Ghazi Enigma – Can he really be a Premier League player?

Anwar El Ghazi first joined Aston Villa on 22nd August 2018 on a loan deal from LOSC Lille with an option-to-buy clause.

A little-known Dutch winger but former Ajax prospect, El Ghazi endured a difficult season marred with bench limitations and inconsistency. He did however, show much improvement at the back end of last season, displaying flashes of brilliance along with a match-winning performance at Wembley to help fire Villa to the Premier League. Thus earning him a permanent move to the club.

But for me El Ghazi is still somewhat of an enigma. He’s a lovable character with quality and a passion to succeed, but for the majority of last season El Ghazi’s performances were rather underwhelming.

Three days after signing, El Ghazi made his debut against Reading and then played the next two games against Sheffield United and Rotherham, opening his account with a consolation goal at Bramall Lane. The Rotherham match on 18th September was his last start until 1st December: three substitute appearances including against Nottingham Forest, where he scored, came in between.

A couple of goals but no consistency was the player that we saw for majority of the season. He played no part in they key victories against Birmingham and Derby. He was in and out of the team due to his erratic displays and mostly sub-par performances before our winning run began with Jack Grealish’s return.

Let’s compare the stats for Anwar El Ghazi within the 10-game winning streak, ensuing games, and the playoffs (14 matches – Set A) and everything prior whilst under Dean Smith’s management (Set B). In Set A matches, Anwar El Ghazi averaged a 6.96 rating and 0.35 goal contributions per game. But in Set B matches, the Dutch winger averaged a 6.79 rating and 0.31 goal contributions per game. In the second set, it is prudent to mention that the stats are falsely inflated by the West Brom away game with two goals from El Ghazi and an 8.92 rating and without this, 6.24 is the average rating and 0.25 goal contributions on average per game.

The statistics signify a big jump on average towards the end of the season and so, apart from the West Brom game and the late-season run, El Ghazi was average under Dean Smith’s management. El Ghazi was in and out of the side under Bruce, then Smith came in and he started to play more but averaged just a mere 6.24 rating before the winning run, withholding the West Brom game.

I should clear up a misconception – I think El Ghazi will be a decent player in the Premier League and I like him as a player and a person. Yet at the same time I believe many fans take it for granted that he will make the step up and with statistics taken into account, the evidence is simply not there.

There is a world where Trezeguet starts on the left and Jota on the right, or even (in my naive pipe dreams) Said Benrahma on the right. With Jota’s pre-season performances pencilling his name on the Spurs teamsheet and Trezeguet signed under rave reviews, El Ghazi will have to fight hard and compete for his place and may find first-team opportunities limited.

And that ties in with Smith’s ideology – he wants two players in each position who will compete hard to push each other for places. El Ghazi is merely the epitome of this, battling hard against Jota and Trezeguet and potentially another winger should we sign one. But, in my opinion, he is unlikely to make the starting eleven often.

If he can improve, step up and compete then that is a big accomplishment for a player who far from set the Championship alight. He has the skills in his locker and if he can bring them out consistently and work hard at his game then El Ghazi has the potential to be a quality player in the top flight.

Statistics according to WhoScored.com

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