Football News

Arsenal urged to sign Thierry Henry-esque Ollie Watkins by Theo Walcott

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:39, 17 April 2024

Arsenal have been urged to sign Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins by former winger Theo Walcott

Watkins has been fantastic this season and is being linked to many clubs, though Aston Villa do all they can to keep hold of him, and they may fancy their chances if they qualify for the Champions League.

At the same time, Arsenal are the second-highest scorers in the Premier League this season with 75 goals, but they have been shared across the squad. The Gunners have had 15 different goalscorers in the Premier League, with Bukayo Saka (14) the only player to hit double figures so far. However, they have also had seven players scored at least five goals, more than any other Premier League this season.

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But, there is still the common thought that Arsenal need a striker. It was blamed for Arsenal not winning the league last season — though William Saliba’s injury played a bigger part — and is the big difference between the Gunners and Manchester City. Even Liverpool’s lack of an out-and-out goalscorer has come back to bite them at times this season.

Enter Watkins. Only Erling Haaland and Cole Palmer have scored more goals than Watkins in the Premier League this season, with the Villa striker notching 19 so far. No Villa player has ever scored more goals in a single Premier League campaign, with Watkins equalling Christian Benteke’s record from the 2012/13 season.

Watkins got his 19th goal of the season against Arsenal, breaking through on the late counter to make it 2-0, dinking the ball over David Raya with a calm finish. None of Watkins’ 19 goals have come from penalties, with Douglas Luiz Aston Villa’s designated taker. The Englishman has an xG of 15.38, which goes up to an xGOT of 18.17, showing Watkins boosts his chances of scoring with his shot placement.

But Watkins is not just about the goals. He also has 10 assists and is one of just two players across Europe’s top five leagues to hit double figures for both goals and assists, alongside Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz.

Throughout this season, Arsenal have used the likes of Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard as their central forward, whether as an out-and-out striker or a False No.9. But no one really compares to Watkins. Although both Jesus and Trossard average more shots per 90 minutes, Watkins has the better accuracy, hitting the target with 56.58% of his attempts. Naturally, Watkins also has the best conversion rate against Havertz, Jesus and Trossard, scoring with 25% of his attempts. Havertz is close with 24.32% conversion rate, but Gabriel Jesus’ is very low at 10.53%.

Watkins also comes out on top for assists, but Jesus is the most creative man, averaging 1.8 chances created per 90 minutes while both Havertz and Trossard also out-create the Englishman.

And Walcott believes Arsenal need to go in for the English striker this summer.

“Well you look at their goals tally right now. They will probably invest in a striker and that player could well have been playing on the opposite side [at the weekend],” he told Premier League Productions.

When asked if he was referencing Watkins, Walcott said: “I am indeed.

“I feel he is the sort of player that Arsenal would look at. What I really like about Ollie Watkins is that, you look at his style and you think he is a winger. He reminds me, and it’s one of the best compliments I am going to give him, but he reminds me of Thierry Henry.

“Against Arsenal he played out on the left a lot. He wanted to be a forward, but drifted out on the left – he’s such a threat on the counter. He is playing at the top of his game and it would be refreshing to see if he stays at the club.

“There were warning signs [for Arsenal] when he hit the post. I feel like, when he goes through, he is going to score, that’s how confident he is playing right now. I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of teams sniffing around for Ollie Watkins right now. He is very different.”

Walcott’s sentiments were echoed by Michal Owen, who also brought in Alexander Isak and Ivan Toney as other potential strikers for Arsenal.

“He is a player who is getting better and better year on year,” he told Premier League Productions of Watkins.

“He’s the type of player who could go into the Arsenal team, whether or not they can buy him is another thing.

“There are a lot of players in the Premier League at the moment who would probably be an upgrade on what Arsenal have right now.

“You’re looking at Isak up at Newcastle, maybe Ivan Toney at Brentford and Ollie Watkins at Aston Villa.”