What Watkins said on Ings exit, extra pressure in key Villa role

Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins has insisted that he is relishing the pressure and responsibility that comes with his pivotal role for us after Danny Ings’ departure.

Villa gave the green light to an exit for Ings this week as he joined West Ham, and while the decision did make sense for both him and the club, it raised question marks too given it leaves us light up top in the short term.

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With Ings set to turn 31 this summer coupled with his limited role and high wages, selling him this month for £15m, as per the Telegraph, was a sensible move for the club to recoup a significant fee while we could, and it ultimately forms part of Emery’s long-term plan for the squad.

However, with Cameron Archer out on loan for the rest of the season and with incoming signing Jhon Duran needing time and patience to settle and adapt to life in England when his move from Chicago Fire is finalised, the responsibility to be a consistent source of goals falls on Watkins.

He’s responded well thus far having registered two goals and two assists in six league appearances under Emery, including our winning goal against Southampton on Saturday, and he has insisted that he’s ready to step up and embrace the pressure that is now on his shoulders.

“There’s always pressure when you’re playing for a massive club like Villa,” he said, as per BBC Sport. “It’s a shame [he’s left] but I’m willing to take the responsibility and be the main striker. I’m relishing it.

“I don’t think so too much. I loved playing with him, I thought we played well together, to be honest. It’s a shame to see him go because he’s such a great lad and a good player. I don’t feel any more responsibility. As a striker there’s one thing you need to do and that’s score goals. I’m working on it, staying calm, and I took my opportunity today. I work hard every day to put the ball in the back of the net and I’ll keep doing that.”

Admittedly, Watkins does still need to find consistency in front of goal as he will be the first to admit that he hasn’t been clinical enough for us.

However, with the upturn in his form since Emery took charge hopefully building his confidence and belief, it’s hoped that he will now be able to deliver week in and week out, while it’s important that those around him chip in too and produce as a team in the attacking third.

With his movement, work rate and the improvement in his hold up play, the 27-year-old does make an important contribution up front beyond his goals, but he’ll ultimately be judged on that aspect of his game and particularly now after Ings has left, the focus will be on his goalscoring form more so moving forward.

Based on his comments above though, it sounds as though he has the right mentality in approaching the challenge ahead, and we hope to see Duran complement him well along with any other further additions that are made this month.