In the midst of a title run going down to the final way, the award races have gone unnoticed. While most expect both Arsenal and Manchester City to rack up the awards, one player deserves more recognition.
With Aston Villa finishing in a Champions League spot, Ollie Watkins let the world know that he deserves to be seen as the league’s most important player.

This season proved to be full of twists and turns that captivated fans. Among all the surprises, Aston Villa’s rise to the top deserves more discussion.

Emery’s side plays incredibly well as a collective, but one player ties everything together. Watkins is a fascinating player in this current era. Yes, he profiles as a striker, but he’s one of the league’s best play connectors. 

PHOTO: Sky Sports

Using comparison to basketball, Watkins feels like he’d be an elite shooting guard with the passing chops to match a scoring threat. The Englishman works so well at connecting any attack. Only Cole Palmer rivals Watkins in terms of how much his production accounts for his team’s output.

Palmer and Erling Haaland will likely threaten Watkins for the Player of the Season award.

However, Watkins’ impact on Villa and the team’s performance pushes him to the top.

At the beginning of the season, most expected Villa to challenge for a Europa League spot, but unlikely to do more. In impressive form, Villa finished in a Champions League spot in remarkable form.

In Emery’s system, the striker flows across the front line and aims to latch on to created chances. Carlos Bacca, a favorite of Emery, exemplifies the type of player that flourishes under the Spaniard. A striker with a keen eye for goal, but can also pass at a high level.

Again if we use Bacca as an example, it was only really under Emery where he was both a prolific scorer and creator. Interestingly enough, at the clubs where Emery failed, the strikers used weren’t good enough creators. For sure Cavani and Lacazette were both better pure strikers, but they weren’t Emery players.

In almost every way, Watkins plays like Emery’s ideal striker. Due to that, it’s no surprise that Villa played their best football in years this season.

While Villa don’t leak goals in a terrible fashion, their success is based on a solid attack. Outside the top three, Villa scored the second most goals, trailing only Newcastle. Combining that with impressive performances against top sides, Villa found themselves in a Champions League spot.

Putting their offense on the back of Watkins, the striker accounted for over 40% of all Villa’s goals. Villa does have other good options, but no one matters to the side quite like the Englishman. Like Bacca, the striker decided games for Emery’s side.

Emery’s favorite style of striker continues to define his team’s successes. Villa’s excellence this season is due to a lot of things, but chief among them has to be Watkins.

Calculator rats worship Watkins’ numbers, and they’re not wrong.

He is that good and is sneakily one of the most underrated players in Europe.

Looking at his pure scoring numbers, Watkins is among the league leaders in his efficiency in front of net. His ratio of shots of target versus overall shots shows that he doesn’t spray and pray, rather he picks his chances. This led him to, currently, outperform his expected goals by almost three.

FotMob’s shot map is helpful in helping further profile the type of striker that he is. Like Bacca before him, he fulfills that striker who exists to finish chances. Watkins lurks around the six yard box to just get on the end of any chance.

Additionally, Watkins outperformed his expected assists by over ten. Even if his passing stats aren’t eye-catching, he’s shown enough to be seen as an impactful passer in the final third.


Combining all that, along with his accounting for over 40% of his team’s goals, should push him toward the Player of the Season award. Even if City wins the Prem, Foden or Haaland likely won’t get the votes to win, given the collective success of the team. Palmer feels like much more of a real challenger for the award, but Chelsea’s league play will hinder his chances.

Given Villa’s rise to the Champions League and his importance to that run, Watkins deserves the award. Emery found a way to finally succeed in the Prem, and a lot of that has to go to the English striker.

While he may not be the most talented player, Watkins matters more to his team than any other player in the Prem.

Almost out of nowhere, both Villa and Watkins captured the Prem by storm. With little other truly spectacular performances across the league, Watkins stands out as the league’s most valuable player.

Aston Villa continued their progress from last season and finally became a Champions League team. Emery’s vision finally bore out in the Prem, but it’s thanks in a good amount to Watkins.
The Englishman not only deserves to be recognized as the most valuable player but also a spot in the Euro side.

PHOTO: Getty Images

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