Ollie Watkins is in an exclusive club in the Premier League this season. He’s the only player to have scored five goals and chipped in with five assists.
The likes of Erling Haaland (9), Mohamed Salah and Heung-Min Son (both 7) have scored more than the Aston Villa No.11 but only Salah (11) can better the former Brentford winger’s return of 10 goal involvements across the opening nine matches.
Watkins is Villa’s main goal threat and he’s been their chief creator this term. The increased responsibility of this dual role could’ve had a negative impact on parts of his game but it has actually seen him flourish. His WhoScored rating of 7.49 is comfortably the highest of his Premier League career.
The 27-year-old has exploded into life in recent weeks, scoring five goals and assisting three times in his last four outings for Unai Emery’s side. He’s a key reason behind their climb up the table and into fifth.
It is easy to understand why his game is scaling new heights. He’s averaging more shots than ever before (3.2 per 90), while he’s only bettered his return of 1.9 key passes per 90 on one occasion and that was in the Championship with Brentford during the 2017/18 campaign. He’s dialled back the number of dribbles he’s attempting (just 0.4 per 90) with the focus now being firmly on how he can impact things in the final phase. His pass success rate hasn’t ever been higher for the Villans either with almost 77% of his attempts finding a teammate.
Emery has reined in the individual stuff for Watkins and turned him into a key cog in his well-oiled Villa machine. He’s the main man in attack and he more than looks the part. It is something the player himself has alluded to this season.
⚽️ List of players to have scored 5+ 𝐀𝐍𝐃 assisted 5+ goals in the Premier League:— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) October 23, 2023
🟣 Ollie Watkins
📋 End of list pic.twitter.com/4msESrM8JT
"I feel like I have gone on a different path and really focused on being a striker. Before, I was trying to do everything, now I am just focused, being the main man," explained Watkins, speaking to the Telegraph.
Watkins, who recently put pen to paper on a new deal at Villa Park amid transfer interest from Arsenal and Chelsea, has been in sensational form since the turn of the year. In 2023 alone he has scored 17 Premier League goals and this run has seen him reclaim his place in the England squad. He was the match-winner in the recent friendly against Australia.
He was interviewed after scoring the winner for the Three Lions and he credited his club manager.
"I think my mindset has changed since the boss has come in, Unai Emery at Villa. He's filled me with a lot of confidence. I've definitely improved in these last 18 months since I was last in the England camp.
"I think it shows in my form and my performance here so I'm really happy and I'm delighted to be back in the squad and putting on an England shirt."
Emery and his coaching team spent time developing Watkins, as the Villa tactician detailed when speaking to TNT Sports recently.
"Firstly, I told him that his goals were a consequence of his work every day. His commitment with the work tactically that we have to do not only in the attacking third but as well when we are defending.
"And then he has the quality when there are spaces to attack, like today was fantastic, and today he played amazing. We helped him try and get on to good balls, and his finishing today was amazing. We are working with him individually, but he always wants to work more than we are trying to do with him."
At first, it seemed as though it was just a rich vein of form for Watkins but the longer this goes on, the more it becomes apparent that it might actually be the new norm for the eight-cap international. And we’re only really just getting started, so there’s going bound to be more to come from the 27-year-old this term. He looks well on course to shatter the career-high 15 Premier League goals of last season.