This season in the Championship has seen multiple talents shine already. One of them in Jarrod Bowen has already moved away to the Premier League. But him going doesn’t mean much for others. Ollie Watkins is expected to be the next star in the division to potentially take the Premier League by storm in the future – every time a Brentford fan checks the live score it looks like Watkins has scored again.
Watkins isn’t as young as the likes of Bowen or Eberechi Eze from Queens Park Rangers. He’s 24, but playing for one of the most well-run clubs in the Championship could well see him play for the big boys soon. That is what Brentford thrive on- signing undervalued talents from lesser teams and selling them for big profits.
Watkins, like someone like Andre Gray, came to the Bees from Exeter City in the summer of 2017 for a fee of €2 million. For someone who came from League Two, playing in the Championship was going to take time. But for a club like Brentford, that is never a problem.
In his first season at the club, Watkins made 45 appearances in the Championship. He got ten goals, picking up five assists for the club. In the 2018-19 season, his numbers increased further. He scored ten goals only, but he got eight goals in 41 games. While his path wasn’t exactly like former Luton Town man Gray, his stock has certainly risen this season.
He has predominantly been playing as a striker under Thomas Frank this season, as compared to how he was more of a winger earlier. He has made 30 appearances in all competitions for the Bees, scoring 19 times and racking up three assists as well. This has been his best goalscoring season- an improvement from what he did at Exeter as well. Being the sole striker in Frank’s 4-3-3 shape has brought the best out of him.
Watkins’ improvement can be highlighted by how he’s taken only 2.7 shots per game this season. That is less than the 2017-18 season, but he’s already scored nine more goals than he did last season. Clearly, his finishing has gone up either one or many levels. Playing as a striker instead of being a winger has helped in that.
He’s won 1.9 aerial duels per game this season- more than he’s ever done. But his output has been maximised by his lesser involvement in play. He’s played only 1.6 key passes per game this season- less than he’s ever done. He’s completed only 0.6 dribbles per game and has focused more on being the finisher in the final third.
That is further justified by how he’s played only 24.8 passes per game this season- less than his last two seasons. He’s played only 0.1 crosses and 0.4 long-balls. That’s the lowest tally of his career so far. Clearly, playing in the current role has tapped into his strengths of goalscoring.
Frank recently talked about his change of roles. The Dane told reporters after his goal against Reading had given Brentford a win earlier in the season:
“Ollie’s was a fantastic header. He’s a constant threat. His link-up play and his work ethic is crucial.
“We are so pleased he has stepped up and was the main man, the one who decided the game today. He’s definitely a number nine now because he’s so flexible. Cristiano Ronaldo did quite well in the beginning as a winger. Hopefully, Ollie can do something similar.”
That comparison with Ronaldo is certainly high praise. But Frank’s intentions are clear- his ability to finish chances has brought the best out of him. He had that knack for goals when playing as a winger, but Frank saw his ability to score goals in ruthless fashion and he’s done him loads of good.
At the age of 24, Watkins is more than what Gray was. He’s much more complete as a player and is very much like how a modern-day forward should. Brentford have struck gold once again.