Nobody was putting pressure on Ollie Watkins to score goals – Dean Smith

PA

Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith feels Ollie Watkins may have been putting too much pressure on himself after becoming more goal-orientated in the last 18 months.

Watkins developed into an out and out striker at Brentford and marked his final campaign with 25 Championship goals before his summer switch to Villa, where he scored six times in his first seven Premier League appearances.

Included in the 25-year-old’s haul was a sensational hat-trick in the 7-2 win against Liverpool and a double at Arsenal, but his purple patch was followed by a frustrating two-and-a-half-month period without a goal.

He ended his drought that lasted nine games with the opener in the 2-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday but Smith insists nobody at the club was questioning his record – except Watkins himself.

“All goalscorers and centre-forwards will tell you they’re not that worried (about not scoring), but really they just want to score goals and Ollie is the same,” Smith said ahead of Villa’s trip to Burnley on Wednesday evening.

“His mentality has changed since he became a centre-forward at Brentford last season and his mentality is now about scoring goals.

“I’ve said it before that his work ethic has endeared him to all staff members and players here. Nobody was putting any pressure on him apart from himself.”

Villa snapped a three-match losing run to put more pressure on Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce, but they travel to Turf Moor to face opponents high on confidence after bringing Liverpool’s long unbeaten home run to an end.

Smith, though, was encouraged by Villa’s performance against the Magpies, insisting they have shown they are capable of winning games in different ways.

“It’s not always about being gung-ho and cavalier,” Smith said in quotes on the club’s website.

“It would have been very easy with the form that Newcastle were in to go with a very attacking system, but I just felt we needed to be solid as well, pick up second balls and play from there.

“We’ve got different ways that we can win games now, which is probably the most pleasing thing. We’ve got a good organisation and structure so that when players come in, they know their roles and can do a really good job.”

John McGinn returns from a one-match suspension while fellow midfielder Jack Grealish is available despite coming off late on at the weekend – much to his chagrin – as a precaution because of a tight hamstring.

Defender Kortney Hause (foot) and forward Wesley (knee) will miss the trip to take on a Burnley side who have overcome a difficult start to the campaign to move seven points clear of the relegation zone.

“Burnley are a very resolute team, and they don’t concede many against anyone. They’ve had an unbelievable result against Liverpool, so it’s going to be a real tough game again,” Smith added.

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