This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Aston Villa’s re-arrival in the Premier League has seen the club experience mixed fortunes to sit 16th in the league table, but manager Dean Smith would be wise to enter the January market in a bid to upgrade one particular position in the newly-promoted side’s squad.
The club’s decision to sign Anwar El Ghazi permanently from Lille for £8m in the summer window represented strong value and was just rewards for the winger’s impressive performances in the Championship.
Last season he scored six goals and registered six assists – but the 24-year-old does not represent the calibre of player that Smith will be looking for in transforming Villa into contenders for finishing in the top half of the table, and potentially even higher.
El Ghazi has scored two goals whilst registering three assists in eight league starts in the current campaign, but the biggest concern regarding the winger’s consistency is best highlighted in an altercation with Tyrone Mings in the 0-0 draw with West Ham.
Mings angrily reacted to El Ghazi’s reluctance to track back and mark his man, squaring up and clashing heads.
The attacking philosophy that Smith is aiming to construct has been pivotal to Villa’s goalscoring success so far this season – with the club having scored more goals than any side in the bottom nine – but the defensive issues the West Midlands’ side are experiencing must be addressed from the entire team, including El Ghazi. He simply doesn’t work hard enough.
The former Lille man has impressed since arriving in B6, last season showed that, but if Villa are aiming to align the quality of their squad with the likes of Jack Grealish and John McGinn, the winger is a player who simply is not up to the standards that the West Midlands’ side will need over the coming seasons to compete and improve.
With owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris reportedly preparing to heavily back the club over the next five years, although El Ghazi has played an important part in the promotion-winning season last year, his position is somewhere that Smith would be wise to upgrade in order to provide greater attacking and defensive balance within Villa’s first-choice XI.