Express & Star

Aston Villa ratings: Ollie Watkins the star turn from a season to savour

The 2023/24 was nothing short of a stunning success for Villa.


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Under the astute leadership of Unai Emery the Villans booked a place among Europe’s elite as they secured a Champions League spot.

Not even the Europa Conference League semi-final setback at the hands of Olympiacos should take the gloss off what was a memorable campaign.

We rated the players over the course of the season and here are Villa’s top 10 performers.

Ollie Watkins – 6.97

This was the season Watkins firmly established himself as one of the very best strikers in the Premier League. He scored 19 league goals and – perhaps most impressively – set up 13 more to earn the top flight’s playmaker of the year award.

Coupled with his excellent form was an equally impressive durability which saw him miss only one match through injury.

John McGinn – 6.96

Villa’s captain was frequently fantastic as he led the charge for Champions League football.

McGinn scored six league goals, having netted only once in the previous campaign. More important was his attitude and industry in the middle of the park. The heartbeat of the team.

Emi Martinez – 6.93

The goalkeeper, along with Watkins and McGinn, is one of three players Villa really cannot do without.

Martinez was crowned the world’s best keeper in November and did his best to justify the tag with some superb performances across the season. Earned the team no shortage of points with big saves.

Leon Bailey – 6.85

Comfortably claims the prize of most-improved player after a season in which he transformed perceptions.

Bailey appeared to have an uncertain future at Villa Park this time a year ago but is now one of Unai Emery’s most important players.

Scored twice as many goals (10) as he had in his first two seasons with the club and set up nine more. Submitted several superb displays.

Ezri Konsa – 6.64

Another player who can claim to have experienced a breakthrough season.

Always a composed and classy performer, Konsa stepped up to the plate and became Villa’s defensive leader when Tyrone Mings was injured on the opening day.

Performed decently enough at right-back when required, yet it was in the heart of defence he really shone with some imperious displays. Fully deserved his England debut when it finally arrived in March.

Douglas Luiz – 6.61

Scored nine goals and set up five more during an excellent season in which he regularly shone in the middle of the park.

One of several players who displayed strong leadership qualities at times. Faded a little in form during the closing months, perhaps not helped by the loss of Boubacar Kamara to injury in February.

Lucas Digne – 6.60

Looked to be heading out of the door in mid-August but stayed and was one of Villa’s most productive players, particularly over the season’s opening months.

Digne’s crossing from the left flank became a dependable threat, while his defending was improved on the previous seasons. Disrupted during the second half of the campaign through injury.

Pau Torres – 6.42

One of two big money signings last summer when he arrived for £31million from Villarreal, Torres found himself flung in at the deep end when Mings went down on the opening day.

Proved himself a quick learner and got to grips with the Premier League’s physicality, his ability on the ball made him an essential part of Villa’s tactics. A strong first campaign for a player who should only get better.

Youri Tielemans – 6.42

Signed on a free transfer last summer, the Belgium international had to wait until November for his first Premier League start.

But he made up for lost time with some big performances in big wins on the road to a fourth-placed finish.

Became increasingly important as the season went on and his presence was missed in the final weeks after he was forced out through injury.

Matty Cash – 6.33

Began with a bang when he scored twice in a 3-1 win at Burnley. Experienced mixed fortunes for a time after that, with Emery often preferring to field Ezri Konsa at right-back.

Didn’t particularly convince as a right midfielder. But there were some very good performances and he was enjoying a strong finish to the season before suffering injury.