Aston Villa star man highlights the brilliance of Unai Emery

In an interview for The High Performance Podcast this week, Villa forward Ollie Watkins has spoken of the brilliance of Villa boss Unai Emery and how he has taken the club's top scorer to the next level.
Aston Villa v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Aston Villa v Liverpool FC - Premier League / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Ollie Watkins has told listeners of The High Performance Podcast by Jake Humphries of the incredible impact that Aston Villa Manager Unai Emery has had on the Villa number 11 since joining the club.

Unai Emery, Ollie Watkins
Aston Villa v Arsenal FC - Premier League / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

Following the sale of Danny Ings to West Ham in January of last year, it looked fairly likely that the club would sign another high-profile forward to play alongside or compete with Watkins. Watkins had not lit up the league by this point, but the faith put in him from Emery really kickstarted an incredible year and a half that has seen Watkins now be deservedly selected for the England squad for Euro 2024.

"I remember the night before the Man Utd game … I was only on three goals at the time. He said to me ‘by the end of the season you will score 15 goals, I have watched all of your clips at Brentford. You are an amazing player, I don’t need to buy another striker and I am going to stick with you'. A new belief and confidence came from that. It took pressure off me because he was so confident I was going to do well."

Ollie Watkins

Prior to Unai Emery's reign and Danny Ings's departure from Villa, Watkins was a player lacking in confidence that was often rotating with Ings and wasn't really seen as the main man to score goals under Steven Gerrard. The promise that Emery made to Watkins that he was the main man and he wouldn't be signing another forward gave him all the belief he needed to start scoring the goals that fired Villa up the league and into the European places.

Ollie Watkins, Danny Ings
Aston Villa v Brentford FC - Premier League / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Having scored just one goal in the 2022/23 season under former boss Gerrard it was looking likely that the January transfer window could see Villa bringing in more firepower. However, Emery came in and put huge faith in the former Brentford man and Watkins has since gone on to score 32 goals in 61 games for Villa. Watkins won the Premier League Playmaker of the Season Award for claiming the most assists (13) as well as being nominated for Premier League Player of the Season.

Watkins also described one of his favourite qualities of Emery's, and that is for each member of the team to remain humble and remember how lucky they are to be in their position.

"Everyday we must be humble. He always respects the opposition and says it every time before a game, maybe 20 times. No matter where they are in the league, top or bottom, we have to respect them."

The four-time European trophy winner Emery has provided monumental change at the club since his arrival in October 2022. The detail in training, analysis and preparation has been described by Watkins as 'demanding' and goes beyond the depth of any other manager he has had previously.

"When he got out onto the training pitch he was very demanding. The video meetings are very long and deep. He got his points across quickly and clearly. He has changed the whole system around."

It has been well documented since his arrival that his video analysis sessions can take hours to complete and takes the players thinking to a level they thought they were not capable of. The attention to detail by Emery regarding the system and individual player's roles has seen a squad that struggled hugely and were relegation candidates under Gerrard become Champions League players within 18 months. Watkins booked himself a seat on the England plane for the European Championships this summer after consistently demonstrating an ability to score goals, assist goals and link up play last season.