Smith heaps praise on 'selfless' Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins

Dean Smith heaps praise on ‘selfless’ Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins after he reached double figures for the season with early winner against Arsenal

  • Dean Smith praised Ollie Watkins after he scored Aston Villa’s winner v Arsenal 
  • Watkins now has 10 league goals this season and also works extremely hard 
  • Smith believes that Watkins helps to bring the best out of his Villa team-mates 

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith was full of praise for match-winner Ollie Watkins following the 1-0 victory over Arsenal and said he was not surprised by the impact the striker has made so far at Premier League level.

Villa paid a club-record fee, reported to be £28million potentially rising to £33m, to sign Watkins from Smith’s former club Brentford in September after the 24-year-old scored 26 Championship goals in 2019-20.

His second-minute effort in Saturday’s 1-0 contest at Villa Park was his 10th league goal of this season, and fourth in five games.

Dean Smith praised Ollie Watkins after he scored the winner for Aston Villa against Arsenal

Smith is delighted with Watkins’ contribution, with the striker having scored 10 league goals

Smith said of Watkins: ‘I think every week we’re speaking very well of his performance, and that’s what he brings to the team.

‘He’s selfless in terms of what his work-rate is. He’s such a good footballer but a good team-mate as well.

‘It’s no surprise to me he has got into double figures already in the Premier League in 21 games.

‘The football that Brentford were playing last season was Premier League football, Premier League ready, so I knew he was ready to come in.’

Watkins beat Arsenal debutant Mat Ryan with a deflected shot teed up by Bertrand Traore, who had claimed the ball on the right when Cedric Soares misjudged an attempted pass.

The visitors’ subsequent efforts to equalise saw them guilty of some profligacy, and former Gunner Emiliano Martinez thwarted them with some good saves, including tipping over a Granit Xhaka free-kick.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez says he was ready to deal with Granit Xhaka’s effort

Martinez, who registered his 11th league clean sheet since his September move between the clubs, said in quotes on Villa’s official website: ‘I’ve known Granit for so many years and I know he has a wand of a left foot.

‘When he was on the ball, I didn’t think he was going to cross it, I knew it would be over the wall and in the top bin. He did it. He hit it really, really cleanly but my speed was really good and I was delighted to keep it out.’

Ryan, signed by the club he supported as a child last month on loan from Brighton, was handed his bow with Bernd Leno suspended after being red-carded in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss at Wolves.

The Australian produced a number of fine saves after the early goal, and he said on Arsenal’s official website: ‘It was a deflection, there wasn’t a lot I could do I don’t think.

‘I loved being out there. It still hasn’t quite sunk in that it’s my childhood club that I grew up supporting that I’ve just played for. I wanted the perfect start with the result but it wasn’t meant to be.’

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was frustrated with the mistakes his side made against Villa

While Villa moved up to eighth, Arsenal remained 10th in the table.

Asked post-match how irritated he was about the early mistakes at Villa Park with regard to trying to be a team challenging for a top-four place, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said: ‘Those teams don’t make those mistakes.

‘Those teams cannot play in the first 22 games of the season four or five times with 10 men. It doesn’t happen.

‘If you make an error, concede a goal early, the team has to react. The team reacted and we had more than enough to still come back and win the game. (But) if you are not ruthless enough in the opponent’s box then of course you are going to lose the game.’

Arsenal having both Leno and David Luiz sent off against Wolves made it five red cards for the team in the Premier League this season.

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