Brentford fans were left reeling after the widely expected departure of striker Neal Maupay to Brighton and Hove Albion for £19.71 million pounds this summer, with the Frenchman contributing no less than 41 goals and 14 assists in 95 games for the west London side.
With the Frenchman leaving Griffin Park, manager Thomas Frank has been tasked with finding someone to fill the sizeable goalscoring void left by Maupay’s departure.
At first, Frank ventured into the transfer market to find a ready-made replacement, however the Danish manager had several bids knocked back by Charlton Athletic for their prolific frontman Lyle Taylor, meaning that he had to change tactic and look to analyse the talent he already had at his disposal.
Subsequently, Frank seems to have found the man to fill the lone striking role in his chosen 4-3-3 system in the form of 23-year-old winger Ollie Watkins, who has made a habit of finding the back of the net for the Bees since his move from League Two side Exeter City back in 2017.
Frank will have looked to Watkins’ goal-scoring exploits last season, as the main rationale for playing him in the lone striking berth that had been left vacant.
Whilst not having an overly prolific campaign last season, Watkins has so far hit the ground running this season with six goals in 10 games across all competitions.
With the young forward displaying his ability to be a threat on the counter-attack to great effect against Derby as he netted from a free-flowing move for his side’s second goal of the game, it was also a game in which the winger-come-forward displayed his unpredictability, as he continually pulled Richard Keogh and Krystian Bielik out of position by dropping deep.
This principle of Watkins attacking play fits into Frank’s playing philosophy, that involves a great reliance on attacking teams through the middle and a short passing game which requires intricate inter-play.
Watkins will also help to provide a more creative outlet than Maupay for Brentford going forward, with the winger contributing a higher amount of key passes last season with an average of 1.7 per game as opposed to Maupay who only averaged 1.3.
It will be extremely interesting to see if Watkins can score anywhere near as many goals as Maupay managed during his two-season spell at Griffin Park.
However, Watkins’s creative qualities should also help his teammates to profit from more goal-scoring opportunities being created, with the youngster playing a more influential role for the Bees this season.