Why Ollie Watkins is an elite striker & could be the solution for some top clubs this summer


23 PL goals + assists already 

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The January transfer window was largely dominated by the furore around the returning Ivan Toney, with the Brentford striker heavily linked with Arsenal, Chelsea and many other top clubs. That’s because strikers are in demand. Since Erling Haaland revitalised the traditional number nine role in England, scoring goal after goal at centre-forward for Manchester City, the old-school number nine is back in fashion. And top clubs around Europe are searching for their own out-and-out goalscorer in an attempt to keep up with last season’s treble winners.

Whilst lots of the talk has been about Toney getting a big move, the discussion has been much quieter around Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins. But Villa’s no.11 is on fire this season. Being English, in his prime at 28 years old, and proven in the Premier League – Watkins ticks a lot of boxes. Only Mohamed Salah can beat Watkins this season for combined Premier League goals and assists, and the Englishmen even takes fourth place across Europe’s top five leagues when it comes to that same statistic – only Salah, Kylian Mbappé and Harry Kane are ahead. Watkins is proving he is part of an exclusive elite group of top strikers.

How Watkins has proved he is an elite striker this season

Aston Villa have been one of the success stories of the season. Although results have become a little more inconsistent lately, the Midlands outfit are still in line to gain a top five finish as things stand, which might be enough for Champions League football next season. Big wins against Arsenal, Man City and Tottenham have helped Unai Emery’s team mix it with the elite this term. They will also play in the Europa Conference League round of 16 this month, and with Emery’s superb record in Europe, many expect Villa to go far.

One huge factor in Villa’s success this campaign has been the consistent form of their striker Watkins. This season, he has the joint most assists in the Premier League alongside Kieran Trippier with 10. When it comes to goalscoring, Watkins is fourth with 13 goals, only behind Haaland (17), Salah (15) and Dominic Solanke (14). That means Watkins is averaging 0.92 goals or assists every 90 minutes. A remarkable output for a club outside of the title race. When it comes to non penalty goals, only Haaland is ahead of Watkins on the goalscoring chart and even then only by one goal. Nevertheless, as already highlighted by his assists, Watkins isn’t only a goalscorer. There’s much more to his game.

This season, Liverpool’s Darwin Núñez (131) is the only striker with more touches in the opponent’s penalty area than Watkins (129). He is a constant thorn in the opponent’s side, getting into the box and running at defenders. Creating chances. Converting chances. Watkins’ ability to run in behind and stretch defences has been a valuable asset to Emery this term. The 28 year old is irreplaceable at this moment in time. No Aston Villa player has played more Premier League minutes this season than Watkins. In fact, no striker, or even midfielder for that matter, in the entire division has played more minutes this campaign.

When it comes to centre-forwards, Watkins is right up there with the best in terms of his final output (goals and assists) Add to that, the bonus of being proven in the Premier League – Watkins has now hit double figures for league goals for four seasons in a row, he could be hot property in the next transfer window. When the summer comes around, lots of top clubs are going to be on the hunt for a top goalscorer once more. But Aston Villa may need Champions League football to guarantee retaining Watkins’ services for another season.

Which clubs could come in for Watkins this summer?

This summer transfer window looks set to feature a striker merry-go-round. Mbappé edges closer to the most lucrative free transfer of all time from PSG to Real Madrid. Victor Osimhen looks like he will be on the move and has spoken openly about his desire to play in the Premier League. Brentford manager Thomas Frank admitted Toney will probably leave West London this summer. A number of top clubs are desperate for a top centre-forward, and Watkins, with a market value of €60m, is sure to be on the radar of many clubs.

Arsenal were a team linked with a whole host of strikers during the last window, with many believing they don’t have the natural goalscorer needed to win the Premier League title. It does look as though backup forward Eddie Nketiah may leave the club in the summer, opening up an opportunity for another striker to compete against Gabriel Jesus. Watkins offers a very different profile to Jesus and could provide more balanced options up front for Mikel Arteta. Whilst the Brazilian drops deep and links up play superbly, Watkins is always keen to get in behind and stretch defences, which could provide more space for the likes of Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard to work their magic. Watkins was also an Arsenal fan as a child, so would likely be interested in the move.

Chelsea are another London team still in the hunt for a new striker. Nicolas Jackson has adapted fairly well to his first season in the Premier League, scoring seven and providing good hold up play, but doesn’t look the finished article. Watkins, with his proven experience could be an option to get the Blues back on track. Although, there’s a good chance there may be no European football at Stamford Bridge next season, which may dissuade Watkins from making that move.

The most valuable players that haven’t played in the Champions League

Victor Boniface – Bayer Leverkusen – Market value: €40m

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Updated Feb 15, 2024

Morgan Gibbs-White – Nottingham Forest – Market value: €40m

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Nicolás González – Fiorentina – Market value: €40m

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Destiny Udogie – Tottenham Hotspur – Market value: €40m

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Giorgio Scalvini – Atalanta – Market value: €40m

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Vitor Roque – Barcelona – Market value: €40m

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Ousmane Diomande – Sporting – Market value: €40m

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Axel Disasi – Chelsea – Market value: €42m

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Pedro Neto – Wolves – Market value: €42m

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Jacob Ramsey – Aston Villa – Market value: €42m

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Viktor Gyökeres – Sporting – Market value: €45m

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Micky van de Ven – Tottenham Hotspur – Market value: €45m

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Endrick – Palmeiras – Market value: €45m

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Brennan Johnson – Tottenham Hotspur – Market value: €48m

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Eberechi Eze – Crystal Palace – Market value: €48m

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Jarrod Bowen – West Ham – Market value: €50m

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Kaoru Mitoma – Brighton – Market value: €50m

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Michael Olise – Crystal Palace – Market value: €50m

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Roméo Lavia – Chelsea – Market value: €50m

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Nico Williams – Athletic Bilbao – Market value: €50m

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Levi Colwill – Chelsea – Market value: €55m

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Ollie Watkins – Aston Villa – Market value: €60m

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Douglas Luiz – Aston Villa – Market value: €60m

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Lucas Paquetá – West Ham – Market value: €65m

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Alexis Mac Allister – Liverpool – Market value:€65m

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Evan Ferguson – Brighton – Market value: €65m

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James Maddison – Tottenham Hotspur – Market value: €70m

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Moisés Caicedo – Chelsea – Market value: €90m

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Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen – Market value: €100m

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