By Peter Lynch

15th Aug, 2023 | 4:40pm

Ever-reliable Ollie Watkins produces top display at both ends despite Aston Villa loss v Newcastle United

Aston Villa were on a major high going into the new Premier League season, but were sent crashing back down to earth on the opening day.

Unai Emery’s side were full of confidence after securing European football last time out, but their opponents Newcastle United were in the exact same position.

And it was the Magpies who came out on top in their opening day clash at St James’ Park on Saturday (12 August), with the hosts thrashing the visitors 5-1.

There were plenty of disappointing individual displays from the away side, but the ever-reliable Ollie Watkins proved his importance to Emery’s setup with a top performance.

The striker rarely lets his side down, with Watkins doing his utmost to help out his defence in what was a difficult match going forward.

As per SofaScore, the 27-year-old registered an 82% passing accuracy throughout the 90 minutes, as well as making two clearances and one tackle.

Moreover, the forward made two key passes and completed two out of his three attempted dribbles at St James’ Park.

The striker may not have got his goal for all of his hard work, but he did at least register an assist for Moussa Diaby’s debut strike.

His hard work all over the pitch earned him a 7.8 match rating, which was bettered by only Newcastle’s Alexander Isak (8.0) for players who started the game.

While Watkins and every other Aston Villa will have been delighted for Diaby to open his account for the club so early, the striker will be desperate to open his own account when Emery’s men host Everton next Sunday (20 August).

In other Aston Villa news, Willian 2.0 has emerged at Villa, with the player likely to be in the senior squad for Emery.