Josh King is not the answer to Villa’s problems | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images
Aston Villa battled to survival in the Premier League last term, but their lack of productivity in front of goal will have been a major cause for concern for Dean Smith.
Villa’s recognised strikers were hardly prolific last season. In fact, they weren’t. At all. The three of Wesley, Mbwana Samatta and Keinan Davis managed a combined…six goals in the Premier League in 2019/20 – with five of them being scored by Wesley prior to his long-term injury.
Dean Smith is after a new striker | Alex Broadway/Getty Images
Smith’s current strikers lack a real killer instinct, someone to ruthlessly fire home a half chance without even looking at the goal. Villa have seemingly recognised their need for an out-and-out goalscorer as they have been linked with a number of players in recent weeks.
Most notably, Ollie Watkins and Callum Wilson have most frequently been mentioned as targets. However, Brentford are holding out for a hefty sum in order to part ways with Watkins, while Wilson recently opted to make the switch to Newcastle instead.
But the club haven’t wasted any time dwelling on the past, instead the Telegraph report they have gone and made a formal bid of around £16m for Bournemouth’s Josh King. The report also claims that Villa are looking to sign two strikers, with Watkins being the primary target, while they are also interested in Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard and Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster.
Norway v Austria – UEFA Nations League | Trond Tandberg/Getty Images
King – who has considerable Premier League experience – has under one year left on his contract and Bournemouth are willing to sell for a reasonable price, so this appears at first glance to represent a fairly good deal for Smith as he looks to strengthen.
Right? Unfortunately not. The reality is that King isn’t the answer to their striking problems.
The Lions’ pursuit of Watkins and Wilson highlights the type of striker Smith is after. Indeed, Watkins bagged 26 goals in the Championship last season, and while Wilson only grabbed eight league goals in a struggling Bournemouth team last term, he has proven himself in the top flight.
Both players pose a threat in front of goal, with their pace, physicality and finishing ability. Of course, King also has a number of excellent attributes, but Smith is in need of a player like Watkins or Wilson who is able to find the half a yard of space to create a chance and slot the ball home.
Bournemouth pushed hard to sign Wilson | Visionhaus/Getty Images
King isn’t that man. The mere fact he only managed 26 shots (13 on target) in the Premier League in 2019/20 highlights his lack of presence in and around the penalty box. To put this into context, Michail Antonio managed 68 shots (31 on target) for West Ham last term, while Jack Grealish managed 73 (23 on target).
Of course, shots figures don’t tell a complete story. But they do reaffirm the fact that King doesn’t consistently pick up dangerous positions as a striker that would allow him to unleash an effort on goal – never mind score. Instead, he is a tireless worker, who looks to make runs into wide areas and link with his teammates.
One of the primary reasons King is not the answer to Villa’s problems is down to the fact that Smith already has similar types of players at his disposal. Mbwana Samatta became a regular in the side in the final fixtures of last season. Sure, he wasn’t exactly prolific, but he was determined to press and act as the first line of defence when out of possession, while he was also calm and composed on the ball.
King works tirelessly, but he lacks the cutting edge Villa require | Visionhaus/Getty Images
Samatta holds the ball up well, allowing him to link up with those around him. Should King be brought in, he would struggle to fit into Smith’s system as his style of play could see him clash with the likes of Grealish (if he does end up staying this summer).
Dropping deep and drifting into pockets of space, King could limit the impact of those around him. At Bournemouth, he was effective in his role as Wilson was the recognised out-and-out striker, but the pressure would be on him to deliver the goods at Villa Park.
The return of Wesley also shouldn’t be ignored. The striker was beginning to settle into life in the Premier League when he suffered his serious injury, but his direct style of play suited Villa and brought the best out of players such as Grealish. When he returns, Smith will be desperate for the club record signing to hit the ground running – but this shouldn’t be expected of him.
Grealish’s future remains up in the air | Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
The pressure and responsibility cannot simply be placed on one forward. It remains to be seen whether Villa are able to sign a striker or even two this summer, but their pursuit of Watkins and Wilson suggests the club are aware of the type of player they are after. Interest in Edouard and Brewster further reaffirms this point, as well. Even if they do sign Watkins, the addition of a player like Brewster would offer Smith more in and around the penalty box than King.
King simply doesn’t fit the profile. Sure, he’s available in a cut-price deal, but that doesn’t make him the right fit. Reports have suggested that the board are willing to back Smith in the transfer market this summer, and should this be the case, they must be turning their attention away from King and moving more seriously for the likes of Watkins and/or Edouard or Brewster.
After all, they’re the type of strikers Villa need.
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