Who Are Ya? A Profile of Karim El Ahmadi
So it seems Villa are on the verge of sealing another signing from the Eredivisie, this time in the shape of Feyenoord midfielder Karim El Ahmadi. The Dutch-born Moroccan international helped his side to a second placed finish last season and looks as though he could be new manager Paul Lambert's first signing at the club.
I will confess that I'm not an expert on Dutch football, and my statistical database from www.whoscored.com does not stretch to Eredivisie, so I thought I would use my Netherlands-based following to shed some light on the 27-year-old's playing style.
In terms of the position he plays, it seems El Ahmadi would be a holding midfielder in the ilk of club captain Petrov, with reinforcements desperately needed in this area since the tragic news of Stan's illness. Like Petrov many claimed that his main strengths include passing, with a Feyenoord fan describing him as a "a relaxed midfielder, with great style."
If this is the case than Lambert is looking in the right areas with very few of the Villa midfield looking comfortable and composed on the ball last season. Many added that he reads the game well, making a lot of interceptions, which will again be key without Petrov, who made the most in this category per game in the entire Premier League last season.
I would avoid using the not-so-trusty YouTube compilations to judge his level of ability, but the vast majority of the feedback I received was positive, with Villa seemingly getting a good deal on a hard-working and technically gifted player. The asking price of around £3m would have been double were he not coming into the final year of his contract according to other respondents to my call, so all looks good.
It should be noted, however, that many players have made the move from Holland to England and struggled, with the standard of play clearly higher in the Premier League. It should also be said that a few weaknesses were raised, with his lack of goals a recurring issue, though from a deep-lying position I see little issue there. He is also prone to a rash challenge, and although his build is small he has plenty of aggression, picking up a team high of 8 yellows last term.
Perhaps the most interesting response I received claimed that his poor start at Feyenoord after a fantastic spell with FC Twente was due to the fact that he was playing in a defensive-minded team. His game has improved markedly as Feyenoord have developed into a side who dominate most matches, which plays to El Ahmadi's strengths in terms of his passing, movement and vision.
If this is the case than Villa will have to overhaul their mindset from last season and Lambert will need to instil some confidence in the side to look to keep the ball, as Houllier attempted before him. Obviously that is what we are all hoping for anyway, so hopefully, providing his signature is completed, he can slot into the midfield and allow the likes of Ireland to flourish further forward.
The above views were shared by the large majority of Eredivisie fans who responded to my call, of which there were many, so I hope it is a little enlightening for you, as it was for me, and that you accept my apologies for not knowing more about the player myself!