A number of Aston Villa players proved their Premier League credentials against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. Unfortunately for Anwar El Ghazi, he wasn’t one of them.
While Bjorn Engels and Tyrone Mings kept Harry Kane at arms length until the final few minutes and John McGinn opened his top flight account with a well-taken strike reminiscent of a peak-era Steven Gerrard, El Ghazi was by far the most ineffective player on the pitch. If he blows hot and cold, this performance was sub-zero freezing.
The former Lille and Ajax winger joined Villa permanently in the summer for £4.5 million after an initial loan spell (L'Equipe) but, despite scoring a crucial goal in the play-off final victory against Derby County, he continues to leave supporters split down the middle.
El Ghazi can be almost unstoppable on his day but, in truth, there were too few of those last season. Six goals and six assists in 36 games is a decent return for a player new to British shores but it's hardly remarkable.
And with Aston Villa showing a ruthless edge in the transfer market, releasing Alan Hutton and Glenn Whelan while replacing Jonathan Kodjia and James Chester, El Ghazi will be fully aware that the spotlight is fixed firmly upon him.
But with Celta looking to sell, don’t be surprised if an ambitious, big-spending Villa side renew their interest in January, particularly if the explosive Denmark international recaptures the dazzling displays of his 2017/18 heyday at the Balaidos.
Sisto, like El Ghazi, is a right-footed left winger who loves to cut inside and wreak havoc and fire shots at goal from all sorts of distances. So this two-time Dutch international cannot afford too many displays like the one against Spurs if he is to keep his place in Dean Smith’s XI.
Aston Villa are not going to wait around for him to come good.
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