It’s an undeniable fact that Ajax has one of the best football academies and youth teams in world football. The Dutch club has had many talented youngsters in the club’s academy who turned out to be some of the best players to graze the surface of the earth: the names of Dennis Bergkamp, Marco Van Basten, Johan Cruyff and many more. One of the recent academy graduates is now considered as an upcoming hot prospect in football. He is the 19 year-old wonderkid, Anwar El Ghazi.
Who is Anwar El Ghazi?
Anwar El Ghazi is a 19 year-old Dutch winger of a Moroccan descent, courtesy his parental lineage. The talented winger started his career at his local club BVV Barendrecht before spending 2 years with Feyenoord’s youth academy. After the young lad got released, he then moved to join Sparta Rotterdam’s academy, and in his 4 year-spell he showed enough quality to attract the attention of Ajax’s youth academy scouts. After an incredible year with the under-19 side and participating in the Uefa Youth League, he had the chance to train in the preparation period with the senior team. Scoring 8 goals in 150 minutes in pre-season, he was swiftly promoted to the first team under Frank De Boer’s management. Frank De Boer definitely perceived the potential of the young lad early in the first half of the current 2014-2015 season, saying, “El Ghazi is dangerous even when he is not in good form. He is always near goal at decisive moments; the ball often seems to fall at his feet.”
Talent Radar Accolades:
On his first-team debut in the Eredivise, El Ghazi managed to come off the bench and provided a lovely assist against Vitesse. By scoring in his second and third games against AZ Alkmaar and PSV respectively, El Ghazi persuaded De Boer with his amazing performance early in the season to give the young lad more time on the pitch and cemented his place in the starting eleven.
The youngster was named in our 100 Best Young Players to watch in 2015 feature, coming in at #26 in our list of forwards. And has also made an impression on our Talent Radar Team of the Week and Player Rankings feature. El Ghazi was still eligible for the 2016 version of the same feature and made his way into the list for the second time (100 Best Young Players to watch in 2016).
Style Of Play, Strength and Weaknesses
El Ghazi’s style of play of being an offensive winger who runs straight at the opposition’s defenders and being a threat at the final third of the pitch has made him fit perfectly in De Boer’s 4-3-3 fast paced and offensive-minded style.
The first thing that caught my eyes when I first watched him on the pitch was his spectacular dribbling technique. His ability to do one or two effective tricks with the ball and his deceitful feints makes life hard for defenders. As a winger, he isn’t afraid of running down the line into defenders as he has the capacity to find solutions in nearly every scenario, like the assist he offered in the Vitesse game wherein he ran directly to the defensive line without any team mate’s support. This also shows his ability to create chances out of thin air.
Another thing to mention is his pace, the youngster is really quick despite his height. He possesses reasonable strength that often prevents defenders who try to bully him off the ball to be successful. Another aspect that one certainly cannot miss out on is his excellent ball control. El Ghazi’s ball control makes it extremely difficult for defenders to put tackles in, earning a foul from the situation more often than not (El Ghazi is the most fouled player this season in the Eredivise).
His unpredictability is something that cannot be ignored. He doesn’t always go for only one route to the goal by running down the flanks. He is often seen drifting inside to find better solutions. This unpredictability of either running down the flank or cutting in to shoot combined with his fast foot work makes him all the more lethal. El Ghazi has the tendency to position himself behind defender to receive through balls. His attacking positional sense makes him perpetually ready for counter attacks. He is a good crosser of the ball, often delivering low driven crosses into the box, earning him more than 4 assists so far this season with such deliveries and a total exceeding 25 successful crosses overall.
Standing at 1.88 metres, El Ghazi is definitely an aerial threat, winning more than 25 headed duels this season. Being the one who is usually the supplier, he doesn’t get many chances to head in a lot of goals. It is fair to say that he strives to find a spot in the box when the ball is on the other flank waiting for a cross or a tap-in . El Ghazi’s shots are always a threat: the aforementioned knack of cutting inside and shooting from the edge of the box, such as the one he took against PSV, is a recurring theme. He certainly shows no mercy when left with space to take a shot. He has an average shot accuracy of 54 percent and is capable of shooting with both feet (here is a personal favourite he scored against Utrecht with his weaker foot). He is the club’s current top goalscorer this season so far in the Eredivise with 9 goals. As a winger he is doing his job perfectly scoring-wise.
Moving on to his weaknesses, El Ghazi’s defensive contribution is deficient. He is more likely to wait for the counter attack than regain possession. He is good at tracking back full-backs, but only when he is required to. Also, he dives into immature tackles leading to unnecessary fouls. He has 3 cards to his name this season. Another weakness El Ghazi seems to have is his tendency to hold on to the ball with his head down rather than looking up to see teammates in better positions. As for him being an inexperienced youngster, he sometimes chooses to depend on himself rather than passing to find better options and just chooses to dribble more and more till he finds himself trapped between the defenders, facing the corner flag.
What does the future hold?
El Ghazi extended his contract with the Dutch side and it is now set to expire in the summer of 2019. He expressed his happiness to stay at the club by saying, “I’m really enjoying myself at Ajax, the club has a lot of confidence in me and the crowd has been fantastic.” It’s unlikely that he will leave the club in the near future. It’s certain that Anwar El Ghazi will be a really good winger soon, provided he keeps on developing himself in a steady fashion. The sky is the limit for this wonderkid.
World of Football’s take on Anwar El Ghazi
It’s fair to say that football has always been his biggest passion. Arsenal was one of the main reasons he fell in love with football at the age of seven. He used to play football for his local club before injuries got in the way. After college, he hopes to get a Coaching Badge and start a managerial career in football.
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