After suffering a disappointing opening day defeat to Watford, Aston Villa return to Premier League action when they take on Newcastle on Saturday afternoon.
Dean Smith’s side will be hoping for a far better outcome when they taken on the Magpies at Villa Park, and the manager will have some big calls to make as to whether he looks to alter his starting line-up.
One man whose place is under serious threat after a truly lacklustre performance last weekend is Anwar El Ghazi.
Reports in recent days and weeks have suggested that Serie A giants AS Roma have made an approach to sign the winger, with Smith now willing to let him go as he looks to try and revamp his attack.
The Dutchman was shocking in the opening day clash against Watford, having no shots on goal, attempting no dribbles, providing no key passes and losing a whopping nine of his ten duels – such was his disasterclass that Smith hauled him off on the hour mark for Leon Bailey.
Writing in his post-match player ratings for The Birmingham Mail, Ashley Preece gave El Ghazi a four, saying: “Fell flat on his face moments in as Watford had their tails up. Smith was on at the Dutchman as he failed to track back on occasion. Again, El Ghazi showed nothing and struggled amidst the Watford press. Was taken off on the hour. Poor.”
A lack of consistency is something which has affected El Ghazi badly in his time at Villa Park – he scored the bulk of his 10 Premier League goals last season in just two purple patches over the course of the campaign – and it’s something about which Smith will no doubt be wary.
Speaking back in September 2020, Villa journalist Dan Bardell said: “There’s something wrong with him. I think his head has just dropped completely. I think (his) confidence is absolutely on the floor – that never helps – but if people like (Henri) Lansbury and El Ghazi, they’re not taking games like this by the scruff of the neck, then they’re not going to be playing in the Premier League either.”
The £40k-a-week ace now has incredibly stiff competition for a place out wide, and given the nature of his performance against the Hornets, Smith must surely axe him from the starting line-up for today’s game against Newcastle at Villa Park.
His time on the pitch, and indeed at the club, may well be up.
Meanwhile, Villa must finally land this star…