Everton confirmed the loan signing until the end of the season of Anwar El Ghazi from Aston Villa, as Lucas Digne went the other way in a permanent transfer.
As we reported earlier in the week it does seem that Everton owner Farhad Moshiri instigated the talks for El Ghazi as he is good friends with the agent Kia Joorabchian and it will be interesting to hear manager Rafa Benitez’s views at his pre-match Norwich press conference tomorrow.
El Ghazi has dropped out of favour at Villa with the new signing Leon Bailey seeing more game time despite being injured at the moment and Steven Gerrard the Villa manager now preferring to play both Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings up top together. He has been restricted to mainly substitute appearances this season, making only 9 total appearances.
However we need to look at last season to gain an analysis of how El Ghazi can fit into Benitez’s squad and what he can add to the attacking creativity which overly relies on Demarai Gray and Anthony Gordon at the moment.
El Ghazi had his second most profitable season in his career with Aston Villa last year, scoring 11 goals in 31 appearances, only 20 of these he started. Never had he scored that many since playing for his boyhood club Ajax back in the Netherlands in 2015/16 (via fbref.com).
The reasons for this could well have been the opposition teams being pre-occupied with Jack Grealish on the opposite flank or Watkins making intelligent runs off the ball to open up the space. One of those goals El Ghazi scored last season was a cracking strike at Goodison Park to win the game with a curling shot from the edge of the area with 10 minutes remaining.
Everton have lacked attacking creativity unless breaking quickly this season, with Alex Iwobi disappointing once again this season. El Ghazi can provide some dribbling and running with the ball and additional creativity that has been lacking. Although Gray and Gordon have shown a good understanding in the last couple of games.
One statistic El Ghazi has a real strength in, is his no fear of shooting from distance. His average shots last season were from 20.5 yards away, compared to an average in the Premier League last season of 17.53 yards. Along with Andros Townsend this could mean more efforts from outside the area being targeted by Benitez.
El Ghazi with this in his locker also produces many efforts on goal too, averaging 3.35 shots per 90 minutes last season, the highest average from anyone in the Premier League was 3.72 (via fbref.com).
One area that Evertonians will be slightly worried about in regards to El Ghazi is his lack of assists, he registered none last season and that surely has to improve for him to have regular first team football at Goodison Park between now and May.
How much will El Ghazi play? With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison soon to be re-united after injury, coupled with Gray and Gordon being in the best form of any Everton players at present, EL Ghazi may have to wait to get opportunities.
However he will offer a more confident option off the bench than Iwobi and could well fit into a number 10 role that Benitez seems keen to have in the second half of the season. Another option could be to put Gordon in that role as he develops his link up play as seen with Gray at Hull City last weekend.
Another confusing aspect is although El Ghazi is available to play at Norwich on Saturday, he will be unavailable for the next two games as we play Villa and, after coming off the bench against Manchester United on Monday night in the FA Cup, he will be ineligible until the Blues play Newcastle in the league on the 8th February.
No doubt questions have been raised with who got El Ghazi to Goodison Park and how much the club really need him with other areas more threadbare in the squad, questions Benitez surely will be asked tomorrow by the national media.