Erling Haaland has sent goal records tumbling in his debut season for Manchester City but, when it comes to current form, there is little to choose between the Norwegian and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins.
The forward scored his 13th and 14th league goals of the season in Saturday’s emphatic victory over high-flying Newcastle, who succumbed to their heaviest defeat of the campaign at Villa Park.
Eleven of those 14 goals have come in Watkins’ past 12 appearances – Haaland, now on 32 league goals in 2022-23, has also managed 11 in his previous dozen.
Since the 2022 World Cup, the Villa frontman has been involved in more Premier League goals – 15 – than any other player.
Watkins picked the perfect time to score his first double of the season, with England manager Gareth Southgate watching on from the stands as the 27-year-old ran rings around a Newcastle defence that has shipped fewer goals than any other team in the top flight this term.
“He couldn’t have done much more – he was magnificent,” former England defender Rio Ferdinand told BT Sport.
“He asks all the questions a defender doesn’t want. On form, he can’t not be in the England squad.
“He’s sitting alongside Haaland since the World Cup.”
‘He understands everything’
Watkins finished the game with two goals. On another day, he could have had five.
It took the former Brentford man just 28 seconds to rattle the frame of the goal against Newcastle, his low shot coming back off the foot of the post to the relief of the stranded Nick Pope.
He drew a fine save from Pope not long after setting up Jacob Ramsey for a thoroughly deserved Villa opener, before having another low shot blocked by the Newcastle goalkeeper early in the second half.
Watkins thought he had finally got his name on the scoresheet on the hour-mark, only to be thwarted by a marginal offside decision.
He was not to be denied, though, doubling Villa’s advantage with a neat turn and finish before completing the scoring late on via a slight deflection off Newcastle captain Kieran Trippier.
There was more to Watkins’ display than just his second-half goals, however.
“The performance of Ollie now is fantastic,” manager Unai Emery told Match of the Day.
“He has always scored, but he is understanding a little bit more how to attack the spaces [and] when he has to drop to get the ball.
“He understands everything as a striker.”
Watkins’ goals and assist against Newcastle lifted him to 52 goal involvements in 102 Aston Villa appearances.
Only Christian Benteke has reached that milestone in fewer games for the Villains.