Anwar El Ghazi

Aston Villa, West Ham finish scoreless after Masuaku red


Arthur Masuaku was sent off in the 67th minute, but that couldn’t save a scoreless dud at Villa Park as Aston Villa and West Ham shared the points.

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The two sides combined for just five shots on target as the two played a spotty match with few real chances. According to Opta statistics, there was just one “big chance” created between the two sides through the 90 minutes.

Masuaku was sent off with 23 minutes to go for a second yellow card, a somewhat contentious decision by referee Mike Dean for a somewhat innocuous foul in the attacking half that featured little more than slight contact and a small drag. A frantic three minutes of stoppage time still left the scoreline begging and that was about deserved for the match.

[ JPW’s analysis of the match ]

The result feels double-edged for both sides. West Ham will be happy with its performance after falling a man down but will want more against a newly promoted side, while Aston Villa will pull out of the relegation zone with the point but may be disappointed with how they failed to grab the win after earning the man advantage.

3 things we learned

1. Jack Grealish is fearless: Ok, fine, we didn’t “learn” this – we knew it already – but we sure had it reinforced. While his teammates were headbutting each other, Grealish was out there balling, delivering excellent crosses, one of the only bright spots in an otherwise drab first half. He had two chances created from open play, three completed dribbles, and a bright passing map before the halftime break. After halftime he marauded into the penalty area along the end line to create a chance, and while he had a bad miss late, he was the only one to even attempt to reach the ball as the rest of his team relaxed and let it fly by. He’s a Dustin Pedroia-like player who gives 1000%, and while he may rub some the wrong way, it’s all a necessary sacrifice for the 24-year-old captain.

2.  West Ham absolutely misses Marko ArnautovicFelipe Anderson is a good player and Andriy Yarmolenko can be dangerous in moments, but neither can make up for the consistent spark Marko Arnautovic provided West Ham. Without his presence, this Hammers side had little to offer an Aston Villa defense that keyed on Felipe. Yarmolenko was poor and couldn’t relieve the pressure put on his Brazilian teammate. The Hammers have enjoyed a somewhat positive start to the season, but they will struggle to produce consistent winning spells without some kind of change in the creativity department.

3. Mike Dean is a good referee: At one point after the Masuaku red card, the away fans audibly changed “it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Mike Dean it’s all about you.” It’s understandable given the soft sending off, but overall Mike Dean did a solid job. The Premier League has somewhat lacked consistent referees after the retirement of Mark Clattenburg, and nobody has stepped up as the top English referee in his place. While Mike Dean makes plenty of mistakes and isn’t on the level Clattenburg was, he’s still a good referee, and it showed today. He had firm control of a somewhat chippy match and while the sending off was easy to disagree with, his overall performance was fair.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish

Early on, John McGinn saw the ball in the back of the net with a tidy finish from a tight angle, but the goal was ruled out for an earlier foul on Jack Grealish, who was otherwise bright for Villa throughout the match. Three players were booked in the first half-hour, with referee Mike Dean looking to keep the lid on a chippy match.

The most intense moment of the first half came between teammates as two Aston Villa players got into a heated exchange. Anwar El-Ghazi and Tyrone Mings had a coming together that featured a slight headbutt from the former, but the referee was on hand to break things up before it got any worse, with no punishment dished out.

West Ham held nearly 60% possession through the first half, but could only manage one shot on target in a relatively dull first 45 minutes as the home side defended well. Felipe Anderson was tidy in possession but created little with Arthur Masuaku also popping up in spots going forward.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the second half, Aston Villa came out with an attacking intent and nearly found a way in on 53 minutes as Grealish got through down the right and delivered a cross parried by Fabianski, which resulted in a shot from distance by McGinn who just missed wide right.

The moment of change came in the 67th minute when Masuaku brought down Ahmed El Mohamady needlessly in the attacking half. It was a relatively innocuous challenge but one Masuaku didn’t need to make. It produced a second yellow for Masuaku and left West Ham down to 10 men for the final 23 minutes.

The game opened up in the final five minutes but nothing came of it. Issa Diop had the defensive moment of the match as he produced a pinpoint tackle on El Ghazi who was in on the break until Diop blocked off the player but also accurately won the ball as the attacker went head-over-heels. Grealish had a bad miss at the death on an excellent delivery from deep, but on replay he was likely just offside anyways and any potential goal would have possibly been pulled out.

Late El Ghazi goal seals Aston Villa victory over Everton

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With three points under their belt and Villa Park rocking like never before, it now feels like Aston Villa are finally back in the Premier League.

Pinned back the majority of the second half, trying to conserve a 1-0 lead, Anwar El Ghazi‘s last-gasp goal sealed the deal for Villa, edging Everton 2-0 on Friday.

Wesley‘s cathartic welcome to the Premier League 21 minutes in gave Dean Smith‘s side the room to breathe, despite being behind the ball the majority of the match.

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Four things we learned

1. Certainly not the case last time they featured in the Premier League, Villa now have the luxury of boasting game-changing choices off the bench like El Ghazi, who can come in and finish things off.

2. Three matches in, and the Toffees’ glaring void is a clinical finisher up top. They’ll need to find a solution, sooner rather than later.

3.  In the 30-minute cameo, Alex Iwobi displayed that he can turn out to be a difference-maker for Everton this season, if utilized properly.

4. On a good night, there aren’t many stadiums that roar louder than Villa Park.

Man of the Match

Anwar El Ghazi (Aston Villa) – A last-second goal from the Dutch winger gave Aston Villa their first Premier League victory in more than three years.

Jota, positive for 77 minutes on the right side of the midfield, combined time and time again with Villa right back Frederic Guilbert for the greater good of creating energetic counters. The Spaniard’s first assist of the season came in similar fashion, when Wesley finished off his precise through ball.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Everton, like in the first half, imposed themselves on the home side, dominating control of the ball. A lack of fishing and creativity in the final third, however, complicated things for Marco Silva‘s side. As the clocked ticked, the ingenuity was nowhere to be found.

Shortly after coming on, Iwobi put forward the clearest chance Everton had experienced all night. The substitute’s shot, though, struck post, denying any chances of a brilliant debut by the former Arsenal man.

Villa continued to sit back with its four-man backline and Douglas Luiz right above as the No. 6, while remaining attentive on when to spring forward and take advantage of an unbalanced Everton.

El Ghazi surprised many, riffling a shot from 25 yards out. Pickford, vigilant as ever before, calmly blocked it out of danger.

Right before stoppage time, the Toffees were a couple of feet from walking away from Villa Park with a vital point. Theo Walcott, however, failed to keep his strike leveled, skying the ball well over the bar.

Just minutes later, substitute El-Ghazi showed those watching how to finish, leading Villa to their first Premier League win since 2016.

Aston Villa seal permanent transfer for playoff hero El Ghazi

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Aston Villa have signed Netherlands international Anwat El Ghazi on a permanent transfer after he dazzled during a loan spell in their promotion push last season.

El Ghazi, 24, spent last season on loan from French side Lille and the winger scored in the Championship playoff final as Villa beat Derby County 2-1 at Wembley and were promoted back to the Premier League after a three-season absence.

It is believed the transfer fee for El Ghazi is round $10 million and before a permanent deal had been done, El Ghazi professed his love for Villa: “I love the club and I love the fans. This club is amazing.”

His mixture of pace, trickery and superb crosses made El Ghazi an instant fans favorite at Villa Park and along with Albert Adomah and Jack Grealish he provided plenty of service for on-loan striker and top goalscorer Tammy Abraham.

“Anwar proved to everybody at Wembley how good a player he can be for Aston Villa,” Villa boss Dean Smith said. “He’s ready for the step up to the Premier League and he’s a young player who has an awful lot of potential. It’s now my job and the job of the coaching staff and Anwar himself to fulfil the potential that he undoubtedly has. He’ll be a great addition to the squad for next season.”

El Ghazi came through Ajax’s famed academy but has been a little bit of a late bloomer in his career. He now has the platform to kick on and become a regular in the PL with Villa and his flowing style of play suits Smith’s philosophy, and the players around him, perfectly.

Villa will now be working hard to sign their other loan stars from last season, Abraham, Tyrone Mings, Kortney Hause and Axel Tuanzebe on permanent deals as they aim to keep their exciting young squad together in the top-flight.

WATCH: Ajax striker stuns keeper with plant foot penalty in training

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With nearly a goal per Eredivisie game, 20-year-old Ajax striker Anwar El Ghazi is feeling it this season.

This was on display at Ajax training this week when the 6-foot-2 Dutchman hit an unusual penalty kick in training.

[ MORE: Sunderland adds big Bayern Munich back Kirchhoff ]

Watch as El Ghazi strides up to the ball and uses what normally would be his plant foot to shock the keeper to a stand still.

Thursday Transfer Rumor Roundup: Ben Arfa to Real Madrid, El Ghazi to Premier League

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With the January transfer window just around the corner, some Premier League teams are looking for a jolt in the backside, others simply searching for depth that will carry them through any potential struggles that often come with a long league season.

Leicester City remains atop the table and will be there when the calendar switches, but there’s a lot of pressure on their top players who have been sensational thus far but at the moment need to keep that unsustainable form in order for the club to remain in that position.

As a result, the Foxes could go searching for the help in the area they’ve excelled at the most this season: attacker. Particularly, they could be in play for Ajax youngster Anwar El Ghazi, a 20-year-old who can play either out wide or up front, and he’s impressed with eight goals in 13 league appearances for the Dutch giants this year.

El Ghazi has already been linked to Manchester United, Southampton, and Newcastle, likely for their Dutch connections already in place in with the likes Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum. However, many Eredivisie players have come to the Premier League and only few have succeeded, which should work in Leicester’s favor. Could they swoop in and complete yet another upset? It would take much of the pressure off the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

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Speaking of Southampton, manager Ronald Koeman admitted the club is a striker light, something that would corroborate their connection to El Ghazi and other attacking players. Graziano Pelle is in poor form and currently injured, and Jay Rodriguez has struggled with injury for much of the year. “If we need to sign a player, it needs to be a striker,” Koeman said, although he did also add it’s “too early to make conclusions about that.”

Real Madrid is reportedly keeping tabs on flashy former Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa, who currently plays for Ligue 1 side Nice. The 28-year-old has seven goals in 18 league appearances this season, although he has not scored or assisted a goal since October 18. Nevertheless, Nice manager Claude Puel says that Madrid has its eye on the talented and eclectic Frenchman.

Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink shot down any chance of Cesc Fabregas leaving the club mid-season, saying that they need all their talent to overcome a difficult first half of the year. When asked about the rumblings that Fabregas is unhappy at Stamford Bridge, he said, “We need all the players here until the end of the season. Chelsea are still in a position where they have to improve a lot.”