Since coming to the club, Gerrard has clearly brought with him a desire to push the club further and to announce himself in the Premier League as more than just Liverpool's best Captain but as an established tactical manager. However Gerrard has found himself in the centre of a problem Villa fans could see occurring just before his appointment and that is the partnership (or lack thereof) between Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings and the ever-present question, will it ever work having them both? Here I'm going to look at the performances of Watkins and Ings both individually and together and discuss if the new arrivals are a bonus or hindrance to either one's chance at becoming Villas main striker.
I took some time to look into the individual performances and play styles of both Watkins and Ings over the past 10 games they've played for Villa to give a clear background on how both are playing as of recent. Now it comes as no surprise to anybody that both Watkins and Ings have completely different playstyles in how they adapt the role of 'striker' or at least attacking forwards. Watkins is a runner, constantly pressing, dropping back or moving to any area he can where he may get the ball whereas Ings is more controlled and tactical in his movements, constantly changing positions inside and just around the 18 yard box to give himself striking opportunities with high shot to goal %. Now if we look into what I saw from Watkins on whoscored, so make note all credit goes to those guys for the statistics, Watkins has been more like an inside left forward than a left winger of recent. Ollie averages about 2.4 shots per game, that's all types of shots and just from watching him I think we can all agree that his attacking play can be extremely rushed at times and almost panicked leading to blocked shots or close shots where if he took maybe a split second more to settle, it ripples the net. Watkins can be a joy to watch when he gets it right, seeing a player in claret and blue busting a gut to make a ball, cutting inside and slamming one straight into the back of the net like he did against Liverpool (7-2 never forget) will always be a pleasure BUT it doesn't happen all that often. His average rating is below 7.0 and in fact in the last 10 games, Ollie has gotten a +7.0 rating on whoscored only three times which if we're being completely honest isn't the level you're looking for from what is our main attacking outlet and has been over the course of our entrance to the premier league. I will never fault Watkins' effort for the club, for the team but sometimes you do have to think is it exactly enough. Could he be doing more? Yes. Can he? We have to see that, he's without his partner in crime this season and it's no secret Jack (Grealish, obviously) was key to Watkins' goal + assist return last season.
Moving onto Ings, focusing on how he's performed for Villa in particular the last 10 games, it doesn't look good. Now to be fair to Ings, he has not had a team built around him and hasn't been the focus of the teams' playstyle since joining. At Saints, he was #1 for them no matter what, he played often in a two with Adams however the gulf in class there made it clear Che played a more supporting role. Moving back to Villa-Ings, he too hasn't had the most impressive return of shots to goals averaging a 1.4 shot per game. Now as stated previously the differing stats to Watkins is largely down to when and where Ings gets the ball. Usually, you'll spot Ings flirting with the edge of the 18 yard box jostling for just an inch of space from his attackers and his goal against Brentford was about as Danny Ings of a finish as you're likely to see taking the ball in stride and slotting it past the keeper. You just knew it was in the second he made the touch, but it just does not happen anywhere near enough with Danny. He's such a good player, class undeniable but for some reason, it just isn't working with him and it's hard to see how it can change or is it? Now the Brentford goal referenced was made by immense skill from Buendia, proving Ings needs (and deserves) quality service and we've just brought in two players who can give that straight to his feet, or noggin. This could be a turning point for Ings who sits, like Ollie, with a less than desirable below 7.0 average whoscored rating. Watching Ings and Watkins play together is like chalk and cheese, you've got a complete runner to a tactical mover. A composed finisher to a flash moment striker of the ball. Personally, I love them both but is there actually a way we can see both of these guys play together in the starting XI and expect a perfect performance from both? I don't think so. So where do we go from here?
Now it's no secret the arrivals of Digne and Coutinho have sparked a new flame all around the club from fans to players but it does bring around a key question, what does it mean for the whole XI? Can you have Ings, Watkins, Buendia, Coutinho all in the same team? No. You cannot. Who makes way? Now if you were to look at a stats basis only someone may say well it has to be Ings. He's scored one less goal, the lower overall rating for the team, and has the lowest pass % of the entire squad at 67% and it's clear Gerrard wants fluid football, passing and moving not just slotting to channels and tapping it in. However, Watkins isn't blowing Ings out the water, not at all. With only one goal more with much more playtime than Ings, more average shots and dribbles along with barely more pass % at 73% neither of them have actually pushed themselves forward to be Villa's number one striker. Our go-to guy for a goal or to drag us out the depths, I mean against United we relied upon young Jacob Ramsey and a barely match-fit Coutinho (not that it matters for that little magician). To me the decision is simple, you start Danny Ings. He quite simply is one of the premier leagues' current best finishers and on his day is absolutely unplayable especially in and around the box, I really do believe Ings will come good and we have not put the time or effort into making sure we are playing to Danny's strengths. We paid a lump sum for Ings and it's a disaster if we don't at least try this especially with what can be such an exciting line up of having Bailey, Coutinho, Buendia, Ramsey all fit and raring to go, in my view Watkins will struggle to get into the team. But, it isn't over for Ollie and I really thought having someone like Ings around would help him develop as a striker, learning to slow down and take just a little bit of time to decide what to do with his shots or passes I mean Watkins loses the ball so much that to me he doesn't keep his place as a LW / LF at all. It's a big, big dilemma for Gerrard as Watkins is well-loved by many of the Villa fans and I'm even aware that my preference now of Ings can be met with a portion of shock, anger, or disagreement and that's the beauty of the game. But isn't it a ridiculous idea to buy Danny Ings and not even bother playing around him? Also quick side not, I saw this floating around Twitter, I've not actually seen Ings and Watkins link up together for a move or play each other in for a chance on goal once, maybe I'm suffering from severe memory loss or maybe...just maybe...it's time we make a clear decision to make that push for top 10/8 a lot more realistic.
So that is that, I look forward to seeing what both strikers can offer us for the season! For more blogs like these, make sure to follow the page along with myself @Dan_Clarkey and @AVFCFaithful_