Between The Lines: Dean Smith pleased to see Anwar El Ghazi shining for Aston Villa

In a recent press conference broadcast by the club, Aston Villa boss Dean Smith admitted to not having known a great deal about Anwar El Ghazi prior to taking the top job at Villa Park, but has been pleased with the 23-year-old’s improved performances on the training ground and on match days in recent weeks.

What did he say?

“I spoke to Anwar when I first came in [to the club] because I didn’t know an awful lot about him, to be honest. He wasn’t on my radar at Brentford…

“He’s worked very hard on the training ground. As I said when I first came, I’m a big believer that what you do on the training ground you take into match days and the players are doing that. The standards have been set and Anwar has set himself a new standard now and it’s up to him to maintain that standard and improve it when he can.”

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What did he really mean?

Smith is surprisingly honest in his confession that he knew nothing about El Ghazi. However, given that the winger had had little impact at Villa following his summer loan arrival from Lille, prior to the new manager’s arrival, it is perhaps unsurprising that Smith knew so little about his new charge.

This can also be read as a tacit admittance that El Ghazi was not at all in his first-team plans upon arrival. However, the Dutchman has forced his way into the fold through hard work and good form. 

In this press conference, Smith has made it abundantly clear that no player’s place in his side is safe if he lets his performance levels drop or someone else raises a challenge for his position.

Making his mark

Whilst the players will still be adjusting to life under the new boss, Smith himself will be learning ever more about this Villans squad. 

Steve Bruce’s exit has opened the door for those who were previously outcast at Villa Park to take their chance of a clean slate and force their way back into the first team reckoning.