Paul Merson believes that Aston Villa’s new signing Ollie Watkins is a “gamble” and pointed out that he didn’t see too much from him last season when the pressure was cranked up.
The Midlands club completed the signing of the centre-forward from Brentford this summer and he’s cost them £28million, which could rise to £33million with add-ons (BBC).
Watkins marked his Villa debut with a goal in midweek during a Carabao Cup victory against Burton Albion and he’s now in line to make his Premier League debut on Monday night against Sheffield United.
The 24-year-old Englishman has earned his chance in the top-flight after impressing in League Two as a youngster, which has been followed with a few impressive years at Brentford.
He scored 26 goals in 50 games across all competitions last season for Brentford, but ultimately his side were beaten in the Championship play-off final to miss out on promotion.
Merson has singled out Watkins delivering under pressure as one potential flaw in his game from last season, as he was unable to get his team into the top-flight.
“Spending £28m for a player who has never kicked a ball in the Premier League is a lot of money. It’s a gamble,” Merson wrote in the Daily Star.
“He scored a lot of goals last season but I like to see what players do when the pressure’s on, and at the back end of the season, I didn’t see too much.”
Merson may not have been the Brentford match-winner in the Championship play-off final, but he did score in the semi-final second leg and without him they would’ve been nowhere near promotion last season.
The striker slowed down towards the end of the campaign with just three goals in his final 10 appearances, but it was difficult for a number of individuals to get back to full speed during project restart.
It’s going to be a gamble for any player making the step up to the Premier League, but Watkins is already working with a manager he knows well in Dean Smith and is an intelligent attacker that should be able to make an impact.