Express & Star

Emi Martinez says Aston Villa player should be crowned Premier League’s player of the season

Emi Martinez declared Ollie Watkins the Premier League’s player of the season after the striker set yet another record in Sunday’s win at Arsenal.

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Watkins’ late goal in the 2-0 victory took his tally for the campaign to 26, more than any Villa player in a Premier League season.

The England international needs just one more to become the club’s first player since Peter Withe to score 20 league goals in a top flight season.

Martinez thinks the fact Watkins does not play for a “Big Six” club means he does not get enough credit.

"I think Ollie should win player of the season,” he told Sky Sports. “When you play for a 'Big Six' side, you get more credit but Ollie has scored 19 goals with the chances he's got. He should be a contender."

Watkins netted with a sublime finish three minutes after Leon Bailey had broken the deadlock. Martinez had earlier denied Leandro Trossard at point-blank range, though both Watkins and Youri Tielemans were denied by the woodwork as Villa, after weathering an early storm, grew into the game.

The Argentina World Cup winner, who joined Villa from the Gunners in 2020, was booed throughout by the home supporters and celebrated wildly with the travelling fans at the final whistle, after a result which dented his former club’s title hopes.

Victory saw Villa climb three points clear of Tottenham, on a weekend when their rivals in the race for fourth place were thumped 4-0 at Newcastle.

"I enjoy every win but the fans have been supporting us home and away,” said Martinez. “We knew an away win would help our Champions League hopes.

"This is the first step, we've got five finals left. But we need to enjoy this one then go again on Thursday and try to make the semi-finals.

"I think it was 10-11 years I was here. I've still got friends here. I came here as a lad and left a man. I'll always love this club.

"They are still second, they've come far and have one of the best managers in the world. I've worked with Mikel (Arteta). I know how good he is."

"I tried to keep the team in the game, I always try to keep focused and make saves."

Watkins, who grew up an Arsenal supporter, has now scored five goals in eight appearances against the Gunners.

The hosts had not suffered a league defeat since New Year's Eve and Watkins said: "It's massive to come away to Arsenal when they're playing such good football and controlling games, to play like that just shows where we've come and where we're going. It was probably a perfect away performance.

"I grew up supporting Arsenal but it's a different story now that I'm playing against them.

"Any win is a big result but considering the other results, we're focusing on ourselves but we're fighting for Champions League and we knew it was going to be tough today but we've shown what a good side we are.