Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins has provided some interesting insight on a key change that Unai Emery has overseen that has directly impacted him.
In the 10 games prior to Sunday’s win over Man Utd, the 26-year-old had contributed just one goal and no assists as he struggled to find his form in the final third.
While we can always expect him to put in a real shift for the team with his work ethic and defensive effort, Villa certainly need more of an offensive threat from Watkins and he produced that this past weekend in a top performance as he also provided an assist for Jacob Ramsey’s goal.
The Villa forward undoubtedly needs to do better in front of goal too as he has missed some big chances in recent months, but there was always an argument that ex-Villa boss Steven Gerrard wasn’t playing to his strengths and had asked him to do a job that limited him.
As explained below, Watkins has detailed how his role has already changed under Emery, with the new Villa boss tweaking how his players get the ball into his attacking players and how they have more structure and direction in their roles as to what they contribute to the team as a whole.
“It was all about on the ball, staying calm, especially defenders,” he said, as per BirminghamLive. “Before there were a lot of long balls to me and Ingsy and we were battling with the defenders. We used a lot of energy through battling.
“Now, when the ball comes into us, because defenders are taking time on the ball and we’re making more passes, it’s easier for us because we’ve got more time.
“It was more just to take time on the ball, suck them in, then it gives others time on the ball. It was 4-4-2 and we weren’t overloaded with information.”
Naturally, we’ll need a larger sample size to determine whether or not the changes from Emery will result in consistent and long-term success for Watkins on an individual level and for the team collectively, but the early signs are positive and almost seem so obvious.
His movement, pace and clever runs into the channels have always been a successful part of his game, and we arguably didn’t see enough of that being utilised.
It’s unlikely that Watkins meant his assessment as any sort of direct dig at Gerrard, but it’s clear that he’s pleased with the changes put in place by Emery thus far, and he’ll hopefully now build on his performance on Sunday and continue to be a real threat for us in the final third.