Few Aston Villa fans knew what to expect when former manager Steve Bruce brought in Dutch winger Anwar El Ghazi during the August transfer window from Lille on a season long loan, and the 24-year-old did have a mixed start to life in the Championship.
Adapting to the country, the division and a change of manager, once Villa got into their stride in the second half of the year, we saw significant improvement from El Ghazi and he slowly won over some doubters and maybe won over everyone on Monday afternoon at Wembley Stadium as he played a key role in our victory over Derby County as we won promotion back to the top flight.
In 36 showings across the year, Wembley saw him make it six goals in our Championship campaign and he also contributed six assists – but I think what impressed me most about him on Monday was his work rate and the tracking back he was doing.
With an option to sign him on a permanent basis and plenty of speculation suggesting Lille want to deal this summer, the E&S have him saying about his future.
“I have really enjoyed it here and I love the club, and the fans. I have to talk with my agent now. This club is amazing and I will be very happy if I can stay here. But we have to figure it out first with Lille and I hope everything goes well so that I can stay here.”
Reflecting on Monday’s achievement, you get the feeling it hadn’t quite sunk in yet.
“I don’t know how to describe my emotions, I’m just flying in the air. We all did it. Amazing. This one was the best goal in my life, I’m very happy. I was talking with Dave, our video guy, and he told me that he had never seen me head a ball. I said to him it wasn’t my head, it was my shoulder or something but it was great for me to score. It’s great if you can score just before half-time, it gives you a boost for the second half. But we knew it wasn’t done yet and in our heads it was zero zero. But luckily we got a second goal.”