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One on One: Anwar El Ghazi on Dean Smith, National Geographic and Dennis Bergkamp nutmegs

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One on One: Anwar El Ghazi on Dean Smith, National Geographic and Dennis Bergkamp nutmegs

We spoke to Anwar El Ghazi this week as he discussed a wide array of subjects as part of our One on One feature series.  

Check out the Q&A below.

How good is Dean Smith as a coach – and can you give examples of how he has helped you?

He’s a very good coach. I like that he has his own vision about football.

The first day he came here he spoke and said he has a way of playing, a strategy, a plan.

He has helped me. For him, it’s about your reaction when we lose the ball. That’s the difference between winning and losing games – what is your reaction, what is your mentality in the game.

Now I react directly to help the team. That really helped me.

TheVerdictWBATalk us through your rocket goal against West Brom?

Well done from Jack Grealish. He took two men with him, he dribbled inside and when the midfielder came to him, he passed the ball to me so I had some space.

I looked around and heard Elmo shouting at me ‘give me the ball, give me the ball’. 

But I saw the defender was already thinking that I might pass it there so I took a touch and saw my chance to shoot. 

I am practicing all the time on the training ground. So I thought it was the right decision and it went into the top corner.

The emotion was unbelievable. The feeling when you score at any level of football is amazing. But to do it in a derby game in front of so many away fans was very special. 

I was very happy to give them a nice moment.

We believe you like to relax by watching nature programmes?

That’s very true.

When I am at home and want to just relax, I watch National Geographic Channel. I watch it in 4K now, too. That’s an unbelievable picture quality – it’s so sharp. I recommend it to anyone and everyone, especially when you’re watching nature programmes. 

I find it very relaxing when I want to chill out. My latest favourite is ‘Dynasties’ on BBC1. It’s fantastic. 

RonaldoOOOIs it true Cristiano Ronaldo helped you decide between Netherlands and Morocco as your national team?

That's a yes and also a no. 

I spoke to him when I was at Ajax and I asked him that question. But it’s not that he persuaded me. I had already made my decision on that but it was good to get his opinion. 

I just asked him what he would do if he was me. That’s all.

Aston Villa player who has impressed you the most?

That’s a tough question. It’s a lot of players – not just one.

We are very good as a team. We have Tammy, Yannick, Axel, Jack, John – everyone is doing great at the moment. That’s why we are doing well.

What's your verdict on Alan Hutton's derby goal against Blues – and what were your emotions about that win?

The atmosphere was unbelievable, incredible.

Villa Park was sold out, the noise was sensational, the fans were chanting throughout.

It was a hard game but an amazing ending.

And Alan Hutton’s goal? I have done that in training. But never in a game. 

You said when you joined that you knew Aston Villa had great fans – what do you think of them now?

They are fantastic. They have made a great impression on me.

The thing I have seen is that the fans are really with us. They are behind us. We can feel that. It’s important to know that and feel that. You have a better chance of succeeding when everyone is together. 

They certainly give us all a boost.

Your Anwar El Ghazi fan chant – discuss?

That makes me very happy. 

To have that level of affection with the fans makes me feel very special. I thank them for that.

I really like the song too. The first time I heard it, I was laughing to myself about it – the sentiment. 

It’s important when you have that bond with the fans, that you give something back to them. I intend on doing that here with Aston Villa.

ElGhaziBrentford18Villa Park as a venue?

Before every game, you always feel a bit nervous as a football player and then when the game starts, you are excited about the match itself – focused and dedicated. 

You forget where you are and concentrate on what you have to do.

But, before you come out in the tunnel, the feeling is fantastic. You get goosebumps. Each beam in the tunnel has the titles that the football club has won – that’s a nice thing. 

What’s the Championship like – more difficult than you expected – how would you describe it?

It’s a very difficult division. There are so many games – Tuesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Sunday. 

But personally I am used to it because I have played Champions League and Europa League, which also involves a lot of matches.

But the Championship is tough – for example, here we play through December whereas I am usually off so I can recover. 

It’s a hard league, you have to eat well, sleep well, recover well. They are key factors.

You admitted after Norwich that it wasn’t a good game – what were your emotions the day after and how did you recover to become big part of the team?

I was disappointed with my performance but, in all honesty, I wasn’t up to top fitness levels.

I saw my chance at Norwich, I had to take it with my two hands – but unfortunately, I didn’t.

When I first arrived, I played – but then after the international break, I didn’t. Then I sat on the bench for nearly two months – there were no friendly games – I really needed them to improve myself. I am a player who needs minutes.

At Norwich, I played 45 minutes. The I played 90 minutes at Yeovil. Then 10 days later, I got my chance. Those minutes helped me prove myself. 

ElGhaziGoalAjaxTell us about the emotions about scoring against Barcelona at the Nou Camp? 

I can’t explain that feeling.

I came on in that game, I didn’t start it. I don’t know what happened but the ball came to me. I didn’t think. I just shot with my left foot. It wasn’t the best connection. 

But it bounced on the floor and it went in.

Afterwards, I was looking at the linesman as if to say ‘does it count, did I score, am I in a dream?’ 

I was so, so happy scoring at the Nou Camp but it was pretty eery because it was so quiet when we went back to the centre-circle because obviously there was no noise because we were the away team. 

Our fans were miles away in the gods. But, yes, it was unbelievable. 

BergkampOOOWho would win now at nutmegs – you or Dennis Bergkamp?

Ha! Oh yes, Dennis Bergkamp and I had our own competition where we were always trying to nutmeg each other when we were at Alax. 

He won! You could do it anywhere – when we are at the training ground, in the canteen, in the hotel. If you nutmeg it counts.

One time he walked over on the training ground and was shouting and then, all of a sudden, he nutmegged me. It was unbelievable.

I still do it now with some players when they don’t expect it. They’re like ‘damn it!’.

Which Aston Villa player do you spend most time with you – your best friend?

There are a lot of guys I get on with. But because I am one of the younger boys, it’s the younger boys I hang out with. 

It’s the likes of Axel and Keinan. 

But we are all tight, very close. There are not a lot of separate groups. That’s very important.

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Paul Brown
By @paulbrownavfc 19th December 2018