Aston Villa have completed their striker search after signing Brentford’s Ollie Watkins for a club record fee.
The 24 year old was one of Brentford’s best performers in the Championship last season as the West London side fell at the final hurdle, being beaten by Fulham in the playoff final. Watkins scored 26 goals in all competitions for the Bees last year in what was his first full season as a centre forward.
Flanked by Said Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo, Brentford formed a formidable attack that had it not been for a late season collapse would have seen them in the Premier League this season. But after failing to make the grade, they are now set to lose their best stars and Watkins is the biggest.
Aston Villa have agreed a fee with Brentford of an initial £28million, rising to £33million – a club record fee. The previous record was held by Brazilian striker Wesley who was signed just last summer from Club Brugge for £22million, but he scored just six goals in 22 games across all competitions. Villa also signed Mbwana Samatta in January from Genk for £8.5million but he scored just twice.
Dean Smith has prioritised the attack this summer and Watkins will be Villa’s second signing of the summer after Matty Cash signed from Nottingham Forest. The club are also interested in Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, while they also look set to keep hold of captain Jack Grealish with nobody willing to meet their £70million asking price.
After scraping survival last season, Villa need to improve in all areas of the pitch. Their midfield is good enough to be a decent side in the Premier League but defensively and going forward they got no support and thus struggled.
Watkins is a big piece of the jigsaw that will see Villa improve. His willingness to run in behind but also his strength off the ball to hold play up and get his teammates involved will surely boost the likes of Grealish and McGinn who make bursting runs from deeper and out wide. On top of that, he clearly knows where the back of the net is after his season last year. The Premier League is a different kettle of fish to the Championship, but Watkins has the attributes and age to be a success.
£33million is a huge price tag and if Watkins lets it affect him then he and Villa will suffer but realistically he will thrive on the pressure and could be the man to fire Aston Villa to safety in 2021 and potentially make a late push for the England squad in next summer’s European Championships.