England snub can spur Ollie Watkins on to hit new heights at Aston Villa next season
England made it four wins out of four Euro 2024 qualifiers by thrashing North Macedonia 7-0 on Monday [20 June], but Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins will have been gutted not to be a part of it.
Gareth Southgate’s side are well on course to qualify for the tournament in Germany next summer, with Bukayo Saka bagging a superb hattrick while dazzling alongside the likes of Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford in a rampant England display.
However, with the next set of international fixtures to come in September, Watkins will be ensuring he’s one of the first to receive Southgate’s call and to do that he’d need a fast start to the 2023/24 campaign.
Southgate opted for Callum Wilson over Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins because he felt the Newcastle United striker was just ahead of his rival for an England spot over the course of this season.
Indeed, the former Bournemouth striker hit an impressive 18 goals in the Premier League, while Watkins notched 15 goals from 37 games, making him a sure bet as backup to Kane in the international fixtures against both Malta and Macedonia.
It was indeed a stunning campaign for Watkins, especially under the guidance of Unai Emery who played a part in his stunning purple patch which saw him score 11 goals from 12 Premier League games from January to mid-April drawing praise from Jamie Carragher who dubbed him “Unstoppable” at the time.
And it was the strange tactical shifts from his new boss in the West Midlands which led to his stunning form with Emery urging his star man to play more centrally since his arrival at Villa Park.
However, the Villa Park fan favourite went the boil afterwards, scoring just once in seven games to close out the campaign, while Wilson has bagged 12 goals in all competitions since the start of April.
Such a downward spiral in form will have certainly proven the fatal factor in Southgate’s decision-making for the June internationals but there’s still room and time for Watkins to ensure he’s a guaranteed name in the England reckoning, and under Emery’s tutelage next season, he has a huge chance in reaching new levels than the one he tasted before mid-April.
There’s a case to argue that Watkins’ form may have tailed off as a result of a lack of competition for his position, with the 27-year-old potentially becoming a little too comfortable in his guaranteed starting role, and Emery will be looking to correct during the summer transfer window as he desperately looks to bolster his attacking weaponry.
Ex-Sevilla and Arsenal boss Emery arrived from Villarreal and has completely transformed the Aston Villa ship, turning the team into a fully-fledged and potential European outfit by guiding them to 15 wins from 25 matches.
There’s certainly been a number of factors contributing to Emery’s success at Villa Park, none more so than his tremendous tactical flexibility and the swift adaptation to his style of play from his key performers.
And Aston Villa will be looking to match those lofty heights once again next season, especially with a Europa Conference League journey to look forward to.
But one man who will need a fast start to the campaign, but also a consistent and sustainable season to achieve continued England recognition is indeed Watkins. The ball is firmly in his court.
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