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Ollie Watkins will be an Aston Villa legend after 2023-24 season

After signing from Brentford for £28 million in the summer of 2020, Ollie Watkins’ first Premier League goals were a hat-trick against then defending champions Liverpool in a 7-2 rout at Villa Park – talk about showing potential.

On 59 Premier League goals, he sits just a goal behind Dwight Yorke and 14 behind Gabby Agbonlahor before becoming Aston Villa’s all-time leading goal scorer in the Premier League.

Credit: Aston Villa Football Club

The Exeter City academy graduate has worked under Dean Smith, whom he followed from Brentford to the Birmingham-based side, Steven Gerrard and now Unai Emery at Villa.

Under the Spaniard’s influence, Watkins’ numbers have reached new heights as the Euros-bound forward led the Premier League in assists this season.

However, the almost scary fact about Watkins’ prolificness is that it has improved over time. In previous campaigns he has underperformed his xG, whereas this season he surpassed it, so as well as the improved coaching of Emery, his goal tally is being boosted by sheer will, hard work and consistency.

This is something Emery recognises. In a TNT interview, the four-time European champion said: “When he is scoring goals, it’s the main objective he can have. Where he is assisting as well, he’s contributing to help the team. But even when he’s not doing both, he’s working for the team.

“Defensively, the commitment was always high and he is pressuring the opponent. His commitment and behaviour is always a very good example for others. His power is his mind; his mentality is the best quality he has.”

Many have identified Emery’s desire to keep Watkins in the confines of the two posts, rather than allowing him to drift wide, to maximise his opportunities. The former winger has therefore been less involved in build-up play, with his touches per game dropping between Gerrard and Emery’s management, while his chances in front of goal have increased.

In the post-Grealish Aston Villa era, Watkins has also benefited from a wider pool of quality service behind him through the creativity of Leon Bailey, Moussa Diaby and Morgan Rogers.

Over this season’s league campaign, Watkins and Bailey combined for eight goals and spent some time atop of the Premier League’s deadliest duo.

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Availability is the best ability and Watkins, alongside a Europa Conference league campaign, played 3,221 out of a possible 3,420 minutes (94.2%) in this season’s Premier League giving him more time on the pitch to contribute for his team.

Earlier this season Troy Deeney claimed that the 28-year-old ‘is a winger trying to be a striker’, but Villa’s number 11 will be leading the line for his club in the Champions League next season – the club’s first time in the competition since 1982-83.

Author

  • Eduardo Tansley

    Trying to tell stories he would want to read, whether that's Dominican football or British basketball, Eduardo has interviewed sports people from CEOs to athletes on the rise. @tansleyeduardo