At the pre-Reading press conference today Steve Bruce declared that pending international clearance new signing from Lille Anwar El Ghazi will be involved in the Villa Park game on Saturday.
It’s also been confirmed that the club have an option to buy on El Ghazi, so he’s potentially a lot more than a stop-gap loan measure. It’s good that Villa have finally woken up to the fact that their short term-ism gamble of last season, potentially can lead a club down a blind alley when it comes to future seasons.
Is El Ghazi Any Good?
If you go back four years, when El Ghazi was a 19-year-old, he was hotly tipped as one of the bright stars of Dutch football. He scored in the Nou Camp in the Champions League, helped turn around the fortunes of an under-performing Ajax team and was brought into the Dutch national team and earned a couple of caps.
It was a very promising start to his career, when you consider Villa tend to send their 19-year-olds out on loan to lower English division teams to toughen them up against ‘men’.
Obviously, El Ghazi is technically sound, as you would expect from a player that came up in through several Dutch club youth academies before being swept up by Ajax at the age of 18.
After his first couple of seasons at Ajax, he’s relationship with Ajax coach Peter Bosz soured, and despite his versatility he fell from grace, not even making the match day squad of the later stages of the Europa League, where a celebrated Ajax team made it to the final against Manchester United in 2017.
The fact that El Ghazi has already sought a move away from Lille only a year into his four-year contract raises questions about his temperament. With it only being a loan signing initially for Villa, at least the club can get an insight into both his ability and character before deciding to go any further.
Ajax Supporter Insight
MOMS through its Football Supporters Europe membership and involvement, is friends with a someone who heads up one of the major Ajax supporter clubs, so obviously following Ajax home and away, both domestically and in Europe, has seen all of El Ghazi’s games.
He also follows Villa’s fortunes and has visited Villa Park on several occasions for games, so at least has some context of the club El Ghazi is going to.
While he was positive of the signing over all, he wasn’t serving up the usual hyperbole that new signings tend to attract.
He described El Ghazi as a ‘decent winger’ with the emphasis on him being strong (he’s also 6ft2, so has a physical presence), which should make him well-equipped for the demands of the Championship. He can hold the ball up well, has the strength to shield off defenders, which means when you consider his good pace, he can cut in effectively and play through the middle too.
After El Ghazi’s impressive start at Ajax, he seems to think that El Ghazi’s fall from grace at the club was more down to a switch of manager from Frank de Boer to Peter Bosz.
Bosz boss preferred other players, for what turned out to be the best Ajax team in the past decade or so, although they ultimately choked and were shut down by Manchester United in that Europa League final.
Ultimately, he reckons El Ghazi will be a ‘good signing’, if he stays focused and up for it.
Hopefully, we’ll get our first clear insight into this against Reading this Saturday.
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