Aston Villa boss Unai Emery dismissed any concern of an injury suffered by Ollie Watkins on Sunday, and explained the change behind his improved form.
Watkins was withdrawn in the 85th minute against West Ham for Calum Chambers, in a move that would have raised concern about a potential knock given we were still chasing a win at that stage with the score level at 1-1, and particularly given our top goalscorer is in fine form currently.
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However, when asked whether or not Watkins had picked up an injury in his post-match press conference, the Villa boss revealed that wasn’t the case and explained that his reasoning was tactical, and he was keen to introduce Jhon Duran to give him a chance to impact the game and get minutes.
The Colombian youngster almost made the perfect contribution off the bench late on but couldn’t find a finish, but he’s certainly made a positive impression thus far when given an opportunity.
“No he’s [Watkins] not injured,” he told BirminghamLive. “We have to push and help with Jhon Duran to add impact. He had two small chances. I have to use the players in 90 minutes trying to give them the possibility to help us. That is the reason.”
Meanwhile, that’s now six goals in his last seven Premier League games for Watkins, who opened the scoring in the first half at the London Stadium with a fine header, as he continues to lead the line well and make a decisive impact week in and week out.
He’ll be disappointed he didn’t add to that tally with a big opportunity before the break which he could have done better with, but it’s clear that he’s getting into the right areas to score goals consistently, and that is something Emery revealed he has been working on with him.
Further, the Spaniard was full of praise again for the work ethic and desire to improve that Watkins has demonstrated since he arrived at Villa, and it’s hoped that he can continue his excellent form in front of goal between now and the end of the season to continue to fire us up the Premier League table.
“Sometimes I’m being demanding with him. I try to improve in the small spaces to move better and to be in the box, being more efficient. His movement and his comfort with the ball. That is his improvement. He’s demanding and critical of himself. He’s listening.
“I think he’s competitive himself. He’s practicing every day trying to learn and do more work than the team is demanding. Individually he’s working, watching videos and trying to practice a lot scoring and doing individual movement in the box. Of course, this is the good spirit to improve. He is very demanding every day. He’s scoring because he’s a good striker and we have to help him trying to get him in the box. He’s helping the team. He’s the first line of defence. He’s doing a competitive job.”
Villa host Bournemouth on Saturday as we look to get back to winning ways and continue to improve our home form, and although Watkins is deserving of the praise and will hopefully continue to score regularly, it’s important that we find a balance too and others chip in more often.
Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendia, Jacob Ramsey and others will all be itching to be more decisive, while the likes of Duran and Bertrand Traore will continue to push for bigger roles off the bench and make an impact when given a chance by Emery.