By Jonty Banks

20th Feb, 2023 | 11:30am

View: Ollie Watkins has finally found his goalscoring boots at Aston Villa after months of misfiring

Ollie Watkins has had his fair share of critics over the past 18 months, but he is finally starting to repay the faith shown in him by Aston Villa with a strong run of goalscoring form.

The England international continued his superb record against the so-called Big Six clubs in the Premier League with a superbly taken goal in the sixth minute of Villa’s entertaining 4-2 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday (18 February).

Facing up against one of the meanest centre-half pairings the Premier League can pose – in William Saliba and Gabriel – Watkins went toe-to-toe all game long and probably edged the personal battle.

After Matty Cash had played a perfectly weighted through ball to Watkins just after the fifth minute mark, the 27-year-old took his goal with a confidence Villa fans have rarely seen. Shifting the ball from his right to left, he powered past Saliba before powering an unstoppable low strike beyond Aaron Ramsdale in the Arsenal net.

If that chance had fallen to Watkins three months ago when he was low on confidence it would have filled the Holte End with a familiar sense of dread – however, the forward is now finally starting to add the goals to his game that his all-round performances deserve.

Since the World Cup, only Erling Haaland (eight) and Marcus Rashford (ten) have scored more times than Watkins’ five goals, and his importance to Unai Emery’s side is increasing week on week.

Speaking after he netted his fourth goal in as many matches, and as reported by Birmingham Live, he said: “I feel good going into each game and confident.

“I feel like I’m going to score goals now going into each game, which is a nice feeling for a striker. Any team I’m coming up against, I feel I’m going to have the beating of the centre-halves.”

Watkins’ ability to do it against the very best is also very pertinent to note. Since joining Aston Villa in the summer of 2020, Watkins has scored 14 goals and produced a further five assists in 35 appearances against the so-called Big Six: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea.

Taking into account his knack of delivering the goods against the very best teams in the country, as well relentless pressing ability, he will be one of the few players who Emery will want to build his side around in the summer.

The Spaniard is reportedly eyeing up a transfer spending spree for a wealth of attacking personnel in the summer, including former Villan Tammy Abraham [90min, 18 February], due to a current lack of options in the final third.

However, Watkins will certainly remain at Villa Park into next season as he continues to move from strength to strength.

In other Aston Villa news, the club want to reunite with a former player for a fee in excess of £40million in the summer.