By Anthony Onifade

7th Sep, 2023 | 5:10pm

Ollie Watkins form could force Unai Emery into Aston Villa January transfer decision, quality alternative needed

Aston Villa star Ollie Watkins’ Premier League form is now a cause for concern at Villa Park and it could force Unai Emery into a January transfer assault to push the club into new heights in the second half of the season.

The international break certainly hands the Villa manager the chance to find specific tactical solutions to solve Watkins’ poor form, but the Villans could well have done with a quality alternative in the summer window.

The West Midlands outfit sanctioned the exit of Cameron Archer to Sheffield United in a big-money £18m deal which certainly caused some surprise around the club given Archer’s readiness to compete at the highest level.

Jhon Duran is certainly a player worthy of backing but the expectations placed on him to provide the goals when Watkins currently can’t is too soon for a player who only joined the club in January.

In his 73 minutes on the pitch against Liverpool in their 3-0 defeat at Anfield on Sunday (3 September), Watkins failed to hit the target with his two shots, recorded just 20 touches, completed just seven of his nine passes, won one of his four total duels, lost possession six times and recorded just one key pass (SofaScore) in another anonymous Premier League display.

More crucially, right now, Watkins is enduring one of his goal-shy spells again. It’s now just one Premier League goal in his last ten games after the Liverpool defeat, that goal coming against Brighton on the last day of the 22/23 campaign [SofaScore].

He did net a hattrick in the 5-0 win over Hibernian in the Europa Conference League qualifying first-leg tie in Scotland but it was against a struggling and confidence-less team.

The England international has also missed four big chances so far already this season and is underperforming his 1.77 xG (expected goals) in all four of Villa’s games [SofaScore].

There’s no doubting Watkins’ ability to find his scoring feet before long as he is certainly getting in the right positions to score but not luck is not on his side.

According to the Opta-powered stats on FBREF, Watkins is in the 96th percentile of European strikers for the percentage of his shots that were on target last season (53.6%), while he also sat in the top 15% of forwards for expected goals per shot taken (0.18 per 90).

The England international had been hitting the right notes, staying in position to score and shooting on target so another tremendous run is well on the cards.

However, it will certainly be silly of Emery not to plan for a quality big-money alternative in the January window to compensate for when Watkins hits another barren spell in future.

Signing a quality alternative in January could well be the difference in Aston Villa finishing in a much higher position in the Premier League table and also achieving an unprecedented knockout spot in the Europa Conference League, should they overcome their group in the competition.

Watkins stepped up his goalscoring output to 15 goals last season in the Premier League, and it feels like he has the potential to break the 20-goal barrier with the right sources of creativity around him this term.

However, as is already the case right now, he may need much of the weight off his shoulders and while he’ll be expected to bang in the goals in the coming weeks, Emery must look to provide him with the added help he needs in January.

In other Aston Villa, one bit-part international Villa Park player missed out on a crucial opportunity in the Premier League and he could live to regret it.