After an impressive start to life as Aston Villa manager, former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard returned to Anfield on Saturday, looking to build on his side’s recent run of three league wins from four.
Despite a battling performance, the Villans left Merseyside empty-handed as Mo Salah’s 67th-minute penalty separated the two teams.
With the Reds the league’s top scorers with 44 goals prior to the match, the Midlands club were always going to need their front men to perform if they were to come away with a result, particularly Ollie Watkins. However, the striker had a quiet afternoon at Anfield.
Furthermore, according to SofaScore, the 25-year-old lost possession 14 times alongside making just 36 touches, meaning that he lost the ball every 2.57 touches. There was a lack of physical presence up front from Villa’s talisman too as Watkins lost 75% of his duels.
The £44k-p/w forward has made a good start to life under Gerrard, scoring against Brighton and Manchester City under the 41-year-old since he replaced Dean Smith, and there is still little doubt that Watkins is the club’s best striker, his four league goals the most of anyone in Villa’s squad so far this season.
However, fellow forward Danny Ings returned from injury on Saturday, having not played for three games, which will increase competition in the attacking department once again. The two started alongside each other in Gerrard’s first game against Brighton, with Ings playing as a centre-forward and Watkins playing on the left of a front three.
It’s plausible that this could happen again, but if both were to purely play in their preferred centre-forward role, then one would have to miss out. This must be used as an incentive for Watkins has his place in the starting line-up is at greater risk after today’s soporific performance, especially with the renewed availability of Ings.