Danny Mills says that a lack of alternative options to Aston Villa manager Dean Smith may have saved Anwar El Ghazi from being axed from the starting XI against Arsenal.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Leeds and England defender says that the 24-year-old’s controversial confrontation with teammate Tyrone Mings may have caused Smith to consider dropping him but that the lack of squad depth likely forced the manager’s hand.

El Ghazi and Mings were involved in a heated coming together in the 0-0 draw with West Ham, with both retaining their spots in the starting XI for the 3-2 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.

Mills says that other than at Liverpool and Manchester City, there are not many squads where the manager can chop and change on a whim and that Smith has to try and keep the likes of El Ghazi happy due to a lack of other options.

Asked if El Ghazi was lucky to avoid being axed after his spat with Mings, Mills told Football Insider: “The manager has to sometimes, when you haven’t got the strongest squad, it is difficult to drop players just like that.

“(Jurgen) Klopp has a squad where he could do that maybe other than the front three. (Pep) Guardiola has a squad where he could drop anybody.

“There aren’t too many managers who can go: ‘One problem, you’re out.’ You have to manage personalities, manage squads and manage those situations very, very carefully. If you start upsetting too many players, you don’t want to them upset for too long.

“It’s a delicate balance of discipline, keeping them on side but also not ostracising them and giving them the opportunity to turn against you.” 

Smith started with El Ghazi and Trezeguet as his wingers against Arsenal, the Egyptian international returning to the side after a one-game ban.

The manager does not have a host of wide options to call upon, with Jota, who was on the bench against the Gunners, the only other natural winger in the first-team squad.

In other Aston Villa news, Darren Bent has made an “impossible” claim to Football Insider about one senior man at Villa Park.