By Jonathan Veal, PA
Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has revealed a meeting with Ollie Watkins early in his reign might be behind the striker’s incredible run of form.
Watkins’ hot streak continued in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Leicester when he put Villa in front with his eighth goal in the last 10 games to celebrate 100 Premier League appearances in style.
The 27-year-old is loving life under the Spaniard, scoring 10 goals in 17 games since Emery’s appointment.
“I like to take challenges, always, with my striker, with my coaching. Because I like to be offensive and to be a winner,” Emery said.
“The striker is very important to me. I spoke with [Watkins] at the beginning about the relationship here. I told him that I want the best of you and the way he is doing; practicing, being humble to improve. This is the way.
“Then, he has a big career to do in his future. It’s very important as well to try and speak about other players because he is not going to score if his team-mates aren’t helping him to do it.
“For us, Ollie Watkins is very important. He’s not only scoring but his commitment every day, trying to add more work, watching his clips.
“He’s the first defence in our idea, trying to be consistent. He’s working very well with the high pressing. He’s trying to fight with the defenders. He’s scoring and he’s adding the best quality as a striker – the goal.”
Villa’s win at the King Power Stadium came courtesy of Bertrand Traore’s 87th-minute winner after Harvey Barnes cancelled out Watkins’ early opener.
But the game turned after Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was sent off in the 70th minute after picking up two yellow cards in six minutes.
The midfielder apologised for his dismissal as Leicester remain in the bottom three following a seventh game without a win.
“I apologise for tonight,” the 24-year-old wrote on social media. “It’s a mistake I shouldn’t make at a crucial time. I’ll do all I can to make it up.”
Leicester are under the caretaker charge of Adam Sadler and Mike Stowell following Brendan Rodgers’ exit at the weekend and they look set to be at the helm for Saturday’s crunch clash with Bournemouth.
Sadler said: “We’ve said to the players before the game that it’s a 10-game season, whether Mike and I are here to see that through remains to be seen. That’s a club decision.
“But every game at this stage has the same importance. We have to be prepared, we have to be ready for the fight, we have to have a plan, and we have to give it everything we’ve got, and that’s what we intend to do.”