Ollie Watkins (£6.0m) landed at Villa Park last week for a club record fee of £28m, and could be the answer to many of their problems. Could he help Fantasy Premier League managers out as well?
The 24-year-old, who scored 26 goals in the Championship last term, has penned a five-year contract, and is in line to make his Premier League debut in Gameweek 2, when Aston Villa entertain Sheffield United.
Villans boss Dean Smith had been desperate to sign a new striker, and rightly so. Villa’s forwards contributed a meagre six league goals between them last season, and just two, via Wesley (£6.0m) and Mbwana Samatta (£6.0m), in 2020.
Upon signing, Smith said of his new recruit:
“Ollie has developed into one of the most sought-after strikers in the country and we are looking forward to seeing him show his great qualities in an Aston Villa shirt. He is a hugely determined character who has both the ability and personality to succeed at the highest level.” – Dean Smith
Priced up at £6.0m by FPL, Watkins will be hoping to build on that stunning 26-goal campaign in the top tier, but for Fantasy managers, is he a viable option for our forward lines, and if so, when might be the optimum time to invest?
In this new Scout Report, we’ll attempt to answer those questions, and assess his credentials ahead of his debut.
History and Statistics
Newton Abbot-born Watkins started his career at Exeter City, where he progressed through the academy ranks.
Having impressed for the under-18 side, a first-team debut followed in 2014, but it was a successful loan spell at Weston-super-Mare when he started turning heads, scoring 10 goals in 25 appearances for the Conference South side.
“He has a lot of talent, he could run with the ball superbly with both feet and could do the bread and butter stuff very well. His talent eventually shone through and it’s proven to be the case at Exeter. He’s got speed and as well as playing up front, is very competent on the wing. You can also play him through the middle due to his great first touch. We played a 3-4-3 formation and he played in that top three. He was very flexible and offered us so many options.” – Former Weston-super-Mare manager, Ryan Northmore
Once back at Exeter, Watkins kicked on and racked up 21 league goals across the following two seasons, which was enough for Brentford to make their move. Signed for a fee thought to be just under £2m, Watkins was initially used as a wide forward, where he scored 10 goals in each of his first two seasons.
However, it will undoubtedly be the 2019/20 campaign he’ll be remembered for most.
After the sale of Neal Maupay (£6.5m) to Brighton and Hove Albion, Watkins made the switch to a central striking role. The change worked wonders, as Watkins finished joint-top scorer in the Championship with 26 goals, with Brentford only narrowly missing out on promotion to the Premier League.
Amazingly, every single one of those 26 goals came from open play and when you exclude penalties, Watkins scored more league goals than any other player in English football last season.
“I normally call him the beast. He’s a remarkable player and person. He’s so dedicated. Of course, he wants to be top scorer, but that’s not his main aim. He’s so dedicated to improve every single day, so he’s a coach’s dream because of course we want to focus on little details. We’ve been working very hard on his positions and how to run in the box and the link up play. Overall, he’s just improved massively as a player and also as part of the leading group. He’s driving the team. Look out there how hard he works – it’s a joy to have a striker like that. He’s one of the hardest, if not the hardest working offensive player in the league, and he’s also the top scorer. That’s not a bad combination.” – Brentford manager, Thomas Frank
Now at Villa, Watkins will be reunited with Smith, who signed him from Exeter City when he was Brentford manager, with the player adding:
“I am so excited to join Aston Villa and to reunite with Dean Smith as my Head Coach. I cannot wait to wear the famous claret and blue in the Premier League. I want to do something special here and score some goals.” – Ollie Watkins
|2013-14||Exeter City||League Two||1||0|
|2014-15||Exeter City | Weston-Super-Mare (Loan)||League Two | Conference South||2 | 24||0 | 10|
|2015-16||Exeter City||League Two||20||8|
|2016-17||Exeter City||League Two||45||13|
Watkins is 5ft 11, and is used to leading the line having been deployed as a lone striker in a 4-3-3 at Brentford.
He is quick, strong and extremely hard-working, and is best summed up as a complete forward, who is equally comfortable running the channels, or dropping deep to link play.
When looking at Watkins shot map from 2019/20, what shines through is that the vast majority of his shots came inside the area, while the breakdown of last season’s goals also backs up his all-rounder tag: 16 were scored from inside the penalty area, eight from inside the six-yard box, with two coming from long-range.
He is also capable with both feet – he netted 10 with his right-foot, seven with his left-foot and eight with his head.
That heading stat is worth noting, considering Villa finished sixth in the Premier League for crosses last season, with 798, behind only Manchester City, Liverpool, Sheffield United, Chelsea and Everton.
It didn’t take long for Watkins to convert from a cross either, as he scored the winning goal in Saturday’s 1-0 friendly victory over Manchester United, with a diving header from Trézéguet’s (£5.5m) delivery. He also opened the scoring against Burton Albion on Tuesday night.
His fitness in recent seasons is also a huge positive. Brentford played 46 league matches last term, plus three more in the play-offs, with Watkins playing every single match and missing just 10 minutes throughout. The season before he missed just five league games, and a single fixture the campaign before that.
The prospect of seeing Watkins line up alongside Jack Grealish (£7.0m) is exciting.
Last season, barring Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m), no player created more chances than Grealish, while as a team, Villa ranked sixth for chances created, with 369, and tenth for shots (456). The issue was that they only managed 41 goals.
If Watkins can start converting some of those Grealish chances, then you’d expect Villa to push on and avoid another relegation battle this season.
Adjusting to Villa’s system shouldn’t take long, with both Brentford and Villa favouring a 4-3-3, while his position in the starting XI is also secure, as he will immediately move ahead of Samatta, Keinan Davis (£4.5m) and Wesley in the pecking order. Essentially, it will be his place to lose.
So, when might be the ideal time to invest?
I’ve seen some suggest Gameweek 9, but I think we should be looking at Gameweek 6 when Villa have six home ties in 10 matches, against Leeds United, Southampton, Brighton and Hove Albion, Newcastle United, Burnley and Crystal Palace.
Add in a couple of decent looking away trips to West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion, and I think this run of fixtures looks pretty appealing.
Villa’s fixtures from Gameweeks 6 to 15
Villa have been crying out for a clinical finisher who is able to score with his head and feet ever since Tammy Abraham (£7.5) returned to Chelsea in the summer of 2019, and in Watkins, I think they may well have found their man.
That being said, the Premier League is a completely different level to the Championship, so some caution is required.
Nevertheless, FPL managers have reason to be excited with Watkins coming in at just £6.0m.
Right now, I’d suggest scouting him over the next few weeks, and if progressing as I expect him too, make a move ahead of Gameweek 6.
His statistics from the last campaign certainly suggest he should be able to make an immediate impression, and if he were to hit around 12 league goals this season, I think that would be deemed a success, and would no doubt go a long way towards helping Villa avoid another season languishing near the bottom of the table.
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 1
- Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
- Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
- Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United
- West Ham United 0-1 Newcastle United
- West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Leicester City
- Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Everton
- Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-3 Chelsea
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