Aston Villa have returned to the Premier League with a loanee-laden squad. Tammy Abraham, Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi all played pivotal roles in the club’s promotion bid, yet all three could be plying their trade away from Villa Park next season.
Dean Smith only needs to take a look at how the widely-revered Fulham side managed by Slavisa Jokanovic slumped in the Premier League to acknowledge that a summer spending spree is not a necessary prerequisite to top-flight success. But, even with the Cottagers’ failure to compete at the top level still firmly in mind, there is no doubt that Villa need to bolster their squad.
After scoring the opening goal in the play-off final, El Ghazi’s reputation catapulted into newfound levels of popularity, such is the extent of the romanticism associated with such an emotionally-charged and season-defining moment. As the Dutch winger stooped to inadvertently shoulder the ball into the corner of the Derby net, time appeared to stop for a fleeting moment. Breaths were held and pupils dilated at the claret and blue end of Wembley. Then hell unleashed.
In a moment of such intense euphoria judgements are naturally clouded. That’s right, in that very moment El Ghazi was basically akin to a Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo hybrid.
With the climax of the season evoking a whole host of fresh discussions concerning Villa’s squad, you can bet that plenty of fans sitting on the fence over the goalscorer’s future were persuaded to call for a permanent deal at that very moment. The Villans undoubtedly need to bring at least one wing-wizard to the club this summer, but a recent report from the Daily Mail has hinted that it may be Joe Lolley and not El Ghazi who makes the switch.
Both players have been strong competitors in the Championship this season, but how do they compare to one another?
A quick glance at some fundamental statistics is telling about their respective influences in the league this season.
Lolley has been an outstanding performer at the City Ground, wracking an incredible total of 110 dribbles and 84 key passes, comfortably dwarfing the numbers provided by El Ghazi.
Evidently, the 26-year-old transfer target showcased a superior level of dynamism and creative incision compared to the former Ajax talent, and that fact could go some way to explaining why is the subject of a potential £10 million move.
To further compound his serious credentials, he bagged 11 goals in the Championship campaign and also provided 11 assists. Question marks undoubtedly remain over his ability to emulate that form in the top-flight but that is the type of return which suggests he is ready for the step up in class.
While it must be considered that Lolley made more appearances than El Ghazi this season, the disparity between the statistical influence of both players is wide enough to prove that Forest’s talisman could offer a greater threat in the promised land of the Premier League next season.
Time will tell how this potential saga plays out, but it’s clear who the outstanding candidate is on recent form.