By Anthony Onifade

17th Oct, 2023 | 9:40pm

Ollie Watkins nowhere to be seen on international duty for England, Unai Emery will breathe sigh of relief at Aston Villa

Aston Villa star Ollie Watkins proved the hero in England’s 1-0 win over Australia but Southgate’s inevitable decision to leave him out against Italy is actually great news for Unai Emery.

The 27-year-old has been in stellar form so far this campaign, now registering a whopping eight goals in 13 games in all competitions which certainly highlighted Villa’s need to tie him down to a new deal with a number of elite clubs possibly on alert to his contract situation.

He was rewarded for his stunning club form, with a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad this week on 5 October and it’s a decision which was totally justified with Harry Kane the only English striker who’s bagged more goals so far this season.

Fresh from signing a new contract at Villa Park until 2028 on 6 October, Watkins was alert in the box to finish when Jack Grealish’s effort was seemingly going wide justifying Southgate’s call to start him with his tremendous predatory instincts.

It was a reward for an evening of graft, even if Watkins and his England teammates did toil at times. By half-time, he had failed to have a shot on target, though he had one blocked and also saw one come off the woodwork.

Such is the quality of the Aston Villa, he really doesn’t need to have complete and stellar performances to make the difference at Villa Park, as his latest England showing showed.

This season, apart from the four league goals, he’s also got three assists to his name and that’s not something that gets spoken about often.

Watkins has certainly become a well-rounded component for Emery, not only capable of scoring goals but creating them, ranking in the 82nd percentile for strikers in Europe’s top five leagues for assists per 90, and the 88th percentile for goal-creating actions per 90 [FBRef].

The former Brentford man is also involved in 2.65 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes this season and a non-penalty xG of 0.5 which shows that apart from being clinical, he’s also finding himself in the right place at the right time and is being involved in the build-up as well.

Last season proved an instant success for Watkins, especially since Emery’s arrival as he finished with a tremendous 15 goals and six assists in the Premier League and 16 in all competitions, meaning the Villans simply could not afford to lose him over the summer as they looked to undertake a exciting assault on the European stage as well as domestically.

It was always unlikely that Watkins had done enough to convince Gareth Southgate he is worthy of usurping captain Harry Kane for the significantly bigger task the Three Lions face at home to Italy in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Tuesday (17 October).

And that was certainly the case at Wembley as England ran out 3-1 winners against the European Champions, cementing their place in next year’s Euro 2024 for which Watkins was nowhere to be seen.

Aston Villa resume their Premier League exploits at home to West Ham United on Sunday afternoon (22 October) at Villa Park for which they need the England striker fresh, fit and on fire.

The fact he will arrive back in Birmingham unscathed and in good confidence after his Australia heroics, Emery will certainly breathe a huge sigh of relief.

In other Aston Villa news, the Polish media reacted to Matty Cash’s performance against the Faroe Islands.