Aston Villa: Scouting midfield target Marley Watkins

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Marley Watkins of Barnsley runs with the ball under pressure from Oliver Norwood of Brighton
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Marley Watkins of Barnsley runs with the ball under pressure from Oliver Norwood of Brighton /

Barnsley are set to lose their fourth key player in just six months. This time, outside midfielder Marley Watkins is available on a free transfer after the expiry of his contract. Aston Villa are one of many clubs tracking the former Inverness footballer.

Norwich City is currently leading the race to sign Marley Watkins, according to several outlets.

No less than four Championship clubs remain interested in the Wales midfielder. Cardiff City, Wolves, Aston Villa, Bristol City, and Premier League survivors, Burnley want Watkins on a free transfer.

Villa’s interest in Watkins is pretty straight-forward: Steve Bruce has just £1 million to navigate the summer window (plus proceeds from player sales). A free transfer for a key league contributor will cost the club next to nothing; Barnsley would receive just a small compensation package.

But, how would Marley Watkins look in a claret and blue shirt? Let’s scout his strengths and weaknesses.


Versatility: Watkins featured in several positions at Barnsley over the course of two years. His most preferred position, is right midfield, where he appeared at most often at Oakwell (Barnsley home ground). However, Watkins is more than capable on the opposite flank, as well as underneath a central striker. Watkins is a must for clubs that frequently deploy a 4-2-3-1 as the Welshman could feature anywhere along the midfield three. Think along the mold of James Milner, but less defensive versatility.

Production: Marley Watkins recorded ten goals and seven assists in 42 league appearances (34 starts). Like similar Aston Villa midfielders, Watkins fits the goal-scoring stereotype.


Age: Watkins turns 27 in a few months which represents the peak age for footballers. Any club acquiring Watkins is bringing him in during peak fitness and maturity. This runs both ways, however; Watkins is unlikely to improve much from here on out.

Defensive Contribution: Watkins must achieve more without the ball if he hopes to achieve an international call-up with Wales. In 2016/2017, he recorded just 0.9 tackles and 0.4 interceptions per match. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but Watkins received eight yellow cards and one red card in that time. Discipline with limited defensive contributions is an issue.

Next: Which Aston Villa positions will Steve Bruce strengthen?

Time will tell if Aston Villa can woo Marley Watkins to Bodymoor Heath. Perhaps James Bree and Conor Hourihane will put in a good word? A free transfer is always nice – especially more so given the budget circumstances.