Football Features

Anwar El Ghazi shows Timo Werner the way as Aston Villa hold Chelsea to a draw at Stamford Bridge

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:23, 28 December 2020

In an open and exciting game of football that highlighted the contrasting form of two wide-forwards, Chelsea and Aston Villa played out a 1-1 draw.

Timo Werner is now closing in on 700 minutes without a goal for Chelsea. He last scored for the Blues in November’s 4-1 win over Sheffield United (he then bagged a brace a week later for Germany against Ukraine).

In that time, he’s taken 19 shots at goal, hitting the target seven times. Of those 19 chances he’s had, six qualified as “big” chances but each and every one of those were missed. Only Chris Wood has missed more big chances in the Premier League, and he’s at least scored two.

So Werner is getting chances. He’s just not even coming close to taking them. Now the memes are beginning to circulate, as well as that old Julian Nagelsmann quote about how he struggles against low-block defences. It’s just not very good.

Werner came off the bench today after 72 minutes with Chelsea chasing a goal. He managed just one shot, a semi-presentable chance which he blazed over unconvincingly. Beyond that he didn’t pose a genuine threat.

Werner’s scoreless streak will now last at least January 3rd against Manchester City, and if he remains goalless in that game then it will be at least two entire months of fixtures and football before he manages to score in a Chelsea shirt.

That is shocking, but Chelsea fans need not despair for their German forward, nor their £50m investment in him. Sure, it all looks pretty bleak right now but if they just look at today’s game and, in particular, Aston Villa’s goalscorer, they will see hope.

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Anwar El Ghazi went over nine months, the majority of 2020, without scoring a goal for Aston Villa. In fact, if you count only Premier League goals then the Egyptian actually went almost the whole of the year without scoring for Villa.

El Ghazi scored the only goal as Manchester City came to Villa Park and devastated Dean Smith’s men on 12th January. Then nothing again until he scored against Bristol City in the EFL Cup in late September, and then 12th December in the league when he bagged the only goal of the game in the win against Wolves with a stoppage-time penalty.

Since then? He’s been on fire. After today he’s now scored five in his last five for Villa, with only Burnley managing to shut him out. After the 0-0 against the Clarets, El Ghazi bagged a brace against West Brom before notching the third against Crystal Palace and today equalising against Chelsea. Villa are unbeaten in all of those games, their longest such run of the season.

The Egyptian’s goal today was genuinely special. Holding his position wide as Cesar Azpilicueta drifted infield to fill in for the out-of-commission Andreas Christensen, he watched as Matty Cash drifted forward and when the Englishman bent in a beautiful cross, El Ghazi made a deadly run into the space vacated by Azpilicueta and connected with the cross.

And this was no ordinary connection. El Ghazi rose confidently and guided the ball between the legs of Edouard Mendy with the deftest of touches. This was a spectacular finish, a genuinely incredible bit of football which deservedly drew Aston Villa level and ensured they stay above Chelsea in the Premier League table (on goal difference).

“A few of ours had to take time to get to know the Premier League,” said Dean Smith post-match. He was speaking in general about his squad but it could easily have been about El-Ghazi specifically. He could also be speaking about Timo Werner.

The German has scored just four goals for Chelsea so far this season and, of course, is on a long scoreless streak. But the German is still new to the Premier League, and instant adaptation isn’t always possible. Chelsea fans should just look at Anwar El-Ghazi to realise that all Werner needs is one goal. Just one, and it will start him scoring again.

After all, during El Ghazi’s scoreless streak he was mostly used as a sub and only managed 14 shots at goal. Werner has already had more shots in just the six weeks he’s been held scoreless. He will find his way, and given his movement and tactical intelligence, plus the chance-creation potential of this Chelsea side, once he starts scoring again he may never stop.