By Jonty Banks

22nd May, 2023 | 10:10am

Paul Merson claim about Ollie Watkins is completely wrong despite barren Aston Villa form

As Ollie Watkins lined his penalty up against Liverpool, there was a sense that the suffocating pressure of Anfield’s crowd would have a decisive say in whether Aston Villa striker found the back of the net.

It, therefore, came as little surprise that Watkins’ barren form in front of goal continued as he placed his penalty wide of the right-hand upright of Allison’s net.

The 1-1 draw against Jurgen Klopp’s side was the Englishman’s sixth Premier League outing without a goal or an assist, however, after a previous run of 11 strikes in 13 games, he must not lose faith in the transformation Unai Emery is attempting.

Therefore, Paul Merson’s claim that he wouldn’t be surprised if Watkins failed to reach double figures if he were to join Arsenal this summer looks ridiculously wide of the mark.

Speaking to GiveMeSport, the former England international said: “Ollie Watkins I can’t see scoring 25 goals a season.

“Unai Emery has made him a better player but I don’t think he has the quality.

“If Arsenal bought him and he went and he only got ten goals next season, you wouldn’t be shocked.”

Considering Watkins scored 14 Premier League goals in 2020/21, a further 11 last season, and 14 with one game remaining this season, it is clear that he has the potential to take his game to the next level.

Since the departure of Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa in October of last year, Watkins has notched up 13 goals and four assists from 17 Premier League starts.

The growth that he has displayed this term, both in terms of his razor-sharp finishing and his intelligent movement in more central areas than previously displayed, has been impressive.

According to the Opta-powered stats on FBREF, in the 2022/23 Premier League season, Watkins is in the 75th percentile of forwards for non-penalty expected goals (0.41 per 90), which is a marked improvement on the 0.34 per 90 minutes he averaged in the 2021/22 campaign.

The improvement in his finishing has also been evident, especially since the arrival of Emery.

In the 2021/22 season, just 40.8% of the forward’s shots were on target, while this season, he has improved this figure to 52.4%, which is in the 94th percentile of strikers in the Premier League.

Yes, Watkins’ critics came out of the woodwork when he spurned the chance to give Villa the lead from the penalty spot at the weekend, but the steps he has taken this season show there is still plenty more room for improvement.

Having effectively netted 13 goals in half a season’s worth of matches under Emery, the 27-year-old could easily turn into a 20-goal-a-season striker if he continues to reap the rewards of the Spaniard’s coaching.

Watkins now has the chance to prove yet more of his doubters wrong and elevate himself into one of the Premier League’s elite marksmen.

In other Aston Villa news, one Villa sensation has passed the first-team test with a senior role now firmly on the cards.