EPL

Ollie Watkins deserves Euro 2024 place, says Aston Villa boss Unai Emery

By Sports Desk March 03, 2024

Unai Emery backed Ollie Watkins to make England’s Euro 2024 squad after his two goals helped Aston Villa to a 3-2 win against Luton.

The 28-year-old took his tally for the season in all competitions to 21 at Kenilworth Road, first heading in from a Leon Bailey corner then finishing via a post following Douglas Luiz’s quick free-kick.

It is now his best Premier League season in terms of goals scored, with 16 in the top flight as Villa have emerged as surprise contenders to qualify for the Champions League.

Gareth Southgate has less than three months to decide which forward players to take to Germany alongside captain Harry Kane, with Watkins staking a claim as a leading contender.

Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who missed the first five months of the season due to a gambling ban, is also in the frame.

“Every player is showing in their teams their quality, their capacity, their commitment, their performance,” said Emery.

“Then of course, the coach of the national team has to decide. But I think he deserves to be there.”

Victory on Saturday cemented Villa’s place in the top four with nearest challengers Tottenham five points behind, after Lucas Digne’s 89th-minute header secured a dramatic victory against Rob Edwards’ relegation-threatened side.

Earlier, two quick goals from Tahith Chong and Carlton Morris had wiped out the lead given to Villa by Watkins in the first half.

But two substitutes combined to nick it for Emery’s side at the end, Moussa Diaby crossing for Digne to turn it home at the far post just as Luton seemed to be on top.

“This is the idea, when you’re taking decisions, trying to make an impact,” said Emery of his late substitutions. “Trying to do something different, with fresh players. They did fantastic.”

Emery handed Morgan Rogers his second Villa appearance since joining from Middlesbrough in January, coming on in the first half for the injured Jacob Ramsey.

The 21-year-old forward was then withdrawn towards the end, a move the manager said was not a reflection on Rogers’ performance.

“Today he had minutes, he’s had experience with us, practicing with us in an official match,” he said. “He did very good work, but I decided tactically to change him.

“But it’s normal. I did it against Liverpool, changed Leon Bailey after he came on after 20 minutes when Diego Carlos got injured, then off in the second half.

“It’s a tactical issue and it’s never a big issue for the player.”

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