Championship Cracks: Ollie Watkins (Brentford)

There's a generation of creative talent making waves and playmaking their way to a big move

9:00am on Thursday 19th December 2019
Paul Macdonald
23 yrs - S (C), AM (R) - Brentford
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Born in Torquay, Watkins emerged in the Exeter first team in the 2015-16 season after months of biding his time patiently, including a loan spell at Weston-Super-Mare.

His 15 goals and six assists in the 2016-17 attracted the interest of Brentford's notorious scouting system, and they paid £1.8m to bring him to Griffin Park. From there he has evolved from his position cutting in from the left wing into a a ruthless centre-forward, one that is attracting the attention of a number of Premier League clubs.


When Brentford sold Neal Maupay to Brighton for a huge fee but weren't able to bring in a like-for-like replacement, Watkins took up residence in the No. 9 position. A player who had always drifted off the front and had spent the previous two seasons playing off the left of the Bees attack, it was testament to the club's faith in him that they felt he could adapt, and adapt he has.

After a few appearances where he had to adjust to his new surroundings, he now looks comfortable being the focal point and that adaptability can only add to his transfer value. His heat map shows a player who still enjoys dropping off to link play but one who is turning quickly to get into the action areas.

He managed 10 goals in the previous two seasons but he already has 13 in this campaign, which places him behind only Jarrod Bowen and Aleksandar Mitrovic in the scoring charts. No-one has had more touches inside the area (100) so far this season, but his change of position has clearly made him more economical with the ball.

From a peak of 5.3 dribbles per game last season, that figure is now 2.9 and he is only hitting a slight increase in his number of shots per game (2.68 versus 2.4 in 2018-19), the positions he is shooting from are far more likely to result in a goal; His xG per game is 0.48 versus 0.23 last season.

To further show the change in his game, he on average receives the ball from a team-mate nine less times per game, but he is doing more with it in order to create good opportunities for himself. Being through the middle also means being selfish and taking advantage of the opportunities when the come his way.

Make no mistake, Brentford have some immense talent and the likes of Said Benrahma, Josh DaSilva and Bryan Mbuemo are proficient at providing good opportunities. But it takes quite the talent to hit the ground running moving into a totally new position and Watkins has done it with distinction.


Everton have been touted as a potential suitor and, like most emerging Championship talents, most of the clubs struggling at the bottom of the table are in dire need of a goalscorer.

But again, it's all about making the right move, finding a project that can optimise his abilities.



With Watkins' new contract extension taking him through until June 2023, Brentford have no desire to sell but there's a general feeling that he is becoming took big for the league. At the time of writing the Bees are playoff candidates but if that doesn't come to pass a Premier League move will likely happen this summer, and the fee could be anywhere as much as £25m.

View Ollie Watkin's full profile

Watch Ollie Watkins' goals on YouTube

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