It’s a measure of just how far Aston Villa have come in such a short space of time, that Dean Smith and his side will be incredibly disappointed to have not come away with at least a point against Manchester United on Friday night.
Villa were good value to get a positive result at Old Trafford – they had 15 shots to United’s 19, and had double the amount of corners as the Red Devils too (10 to 5) – but a controversial VAR call in the second-half ensured that wasn’t to be the case.
Paul Pogba appeared to trip himself up inside the box, and Bruno Fernandes dispatched it to seal a 2-1 win for the hosts. But whilst Villa will rightly feel aggrieved at VAR, they should also look a bit closer to home for why they didn’t get anything from the game. Namely, Ollie Watkins’ disappointing performance.
The summer signing from Brentford started life at Villa Park like a house on fire, scoring six goals in his first seven Premier League games, including netting against the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal.
But the goals have dried up considerably since then, with the £27m-rated ace now having gone eight games without finding the back of the net in the top-flight.
And on Friday, Watkins looked as poor as he’s ever been for Villa.
As per Sofascore, he finished with a 6.5 match rating, the worst of any Villa player on the night. He lost 12 of his 18 total duels, and conceded possession ten times too.
Whilst his effort couldn’t be questioned – he constantly tried to run into the channels and chase down hopeful long balls on the counter – his touch and finishing seemed to desert him.
He missed one official big chance, whilst he could hit the target with one of his three attempts. That’s also not to mention he completed just 13 passes in 90 minutes, registering just 32 touches in total.
That led to Villa Views on Twitter to call for him to be given a break, with Keinan Davis instead starting in his place.
Quick word on Watkins – personally I don't think he's done much wrong at all this season. Been very unfortunate not to score more than he has, hitting posts, crossbars, being offside by inches etc. But he also needs a break now and again: Davis starts v Liverpool for me. #avfc
— Villa Views (@VillaViews_) January 1, 2021
Whilst Smith will rightly be angry with VAR, he’ll also be very frustrated with Watkins’ lack of impact at the other end.