Anwar El Ghazi’s baffling loan move to Everton as winger risks Joshua King’s limbo
It might have gone unnoticed that there was no Anwar El Ghazi for Everton this weekend. Of course there wasn’t, he’s cup level and was therefore ineligible to play in the FA Cup.
But, let’s be realistic, would he even have arrived on the pitch for the Blues if he was available? Even considering the injury suffered by Andros Townsend in the first half of Sunday afternoon’s humiliating defeat at Selhurst Park.
He was not included in the squad to face Newcastle United a few days earlier, although there were no talks of any injury concerns for the winger ahead of the match. The most the Evertonians have seen from their new man was his involvement in the Finch Farm photo and video formation.
In truth, as the weeks pass, El Ghazi’s move from loan to Goodison Park becomes more and more confusing. His two appearances for the club since January are just over double the figures in terms of minutes played.
READ MORE: Everton have ‘serious problems’ with goals but strikers may not be to blame
READ MORE: Seven-goal thriller that restored Everton’s ‘feel good’ factor with help from Duncan Ferguson
The majority of his time on Merseyside was spent on the bench, and when he arrived on the pitch he didn’t have enough time to make an effective impact on the proceedings. By the end of the campaign, it’s hard to see how that will change.
In many ways, El Ghazi can perhaps be considered a bit unfortunate. It’s not his fault he was brought to the side when he took up a position that many could see Everton actually had a number of solid options.
Anthony Gordon, Demarai Gray, Townsend, Richarlison, Alex Iwobi and even youngsters like Lewis Dobbin have the capabilities to take these positions on the flanks of the current squad. You would have a strong argument to suggest that these are in fact the areas where the Blues have the most depth.
The Dutch international had struggled to consistently hold his place in the Aston Villa line-up throughout the first half of the season following their strong signings during the summer transfer window. With the trend continuing this winter, it seemed natural for the striker to move to a new location.
But Everton were an interesting choice. As previously stated, the club did not realistically need to bring a player into this position.
His arrival on Merseyside was marred somewhat by the fact that, through no fault of his of course, it coincided with Lucas Digne heading the other way. Much to the dismay of many Blues supporters, Rafael Benitez had won the day in his battle with the defender.
However, rumor still swirled around El Ghazi’s arrival. Who had the idea to bring him to the club? What would be its place in the new system? Was it possible that this turned into a permanent switch?
Any comments from the manager who signed him for the club were conspicuously absent after his signing was announced. However, the Spaniard addressed his latest signing a few days later.
He told print media at the time: “To be fair, with the Covid situation, with the injuries and also (Alex) Iwobi out of here for almost a month, it was an opportunity. If there’s a player on loan, with quality, who wants to come, who wants to prove himself, then maybe it’s a win-win situation. That was the idea.
“I was talking with the player to make sure he wanted to come, and he has the desire to do well for us, and he was quite positive. In the end, I hope he can improve our team.”
That last point was what many of the more optimistic Evertonians chose to focus on. The winger may not be a regular starter by the end of the campaign but he can surely bolster options from the bench and be a quality team option if needed.
Think of Joshua King, if you need a recent example. In fact, he’s managed to get even fewer chances than the Norway international – who eventually left the Blues last summer frustrated with the chances he got.
Although Benitez had plans to integrate El Ghazi in the weeks and months to come, they soon proved outdated. Three days after the winger arrived on Merseyside, the manager was sacked.
If the Aston Vila man wasn’t already destined to be in a state of uncertainty, then it was almost confirmed that he was when a new boss was appointed. His loan spell also resulted in an interesting situation for Frank Lampard early in his tenure.
Of course, Everton had used one of their allocated loan moves to bring the winger to the club, and they soon used another to secure Donny van de Beek’s signature at the new boss’ strict request.
Get all the latest Everton news, transfer gossip, stadium updates and match reaction with our daily newsletter.
We’ll have all the latest Everton updates along with commentary and analysis straight to your inbox every day through our FREE email newsletter.
Perhaps with another loan option at his disposal, the Blues could have strengthened a distinct area of their squad ahead of a crucial second half of the season. But maybe it’s not worth speculating, because it won’t solve anything.
But where is El Ghazi? Even though Townsend is set to miss the remaining months of the season, you find it hard to see how much that will change in the weeks to come.
Lampard’s hash and system change may well open up opportunities for others further down the line, but Iwobi just grabbed the most recent presented to him with both hands. If it was about giving an exciting youngster like Dobbin a few minutes or using a player who will no doubt leave the club in a few months as well, which coach would he prefer more?
The Dutch international will likely be back in the squad after the international break, but how many minutes he will take remains to be seen. There is, of course, the possibility that he could earn an unlikely opportunity and truly prove he is the difference in the remaining games of the term.
But, if he can’t do that, then maybe he’ll be relegated to a forgotten fate similar to what King had a year before.