Gabriel Jesus has hit the ground running at Arsenal after Mikel Arteta sought to replace the recently departed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette this summer. But after the Spanish coach admitted Arsenal were still looking to do business before the deadline, he could be eyeing another forward to reinforce his attacking regiment.
Ollie Watkins could be a potential candidate for an exciting move to the Emirates Stadium. The Aston Villa striker – valued at £31.5million on transfermarkt – didn’t start on the Premier League’s opening weekend as Steven Gerrard’s side fell to a dire 2-0 defeat at AFC Bournemouth.
And based on previous comments, Watkins would undoubtedly be interested in joining Arteta’s project if the opportunity arose. Back in February 2021, after netting the winner in Villa’s 1-0 triumph against Arsenal in the 2020/21 season, he admitted it would be a ‘dream’ to represent the Gunners.
He said: “That’s the dream to play for Arsenal one day. But it’s a long shot. It’s only because my family support them and stuff like that. But that’s a long-term [goal]. Thierry Henry [was my favourite player]. I’m an Arsenal fan, so Thierry Henry was. He’s unbelievable to watch. He was the idol growing up, really.”
Despite Watkins’ potential desire, Gerrard has no intention to let him leave and made his stance clear after the Bournemouth defeat. “Ollie’s going nowhere. We love him. We really enjoy working with him,” the Villa boss insisted. “To take this challenge at Villa where we want to take it, we need goalscorers, and we need top players, and Ollie Watkins is a top player.
“I will fight as hard as I need to fight if something ever happened, but I know the owner, the chief executive Christian Purslow and sporting director Johan Lange are all on the same page. We’re delighted with him. So, it’s a straight: ‘No’ from us.”
Despite his firm stance, the door could open for Watkins to leave if Gerrard persists with a front two of Danny Ings and Leon Bailey in the coming weeks. And if Arsenal form concrete interest and make an approach worth £25m to £30m, it could be enough to sway Villa’s head.
Arteta will be delighted with his current attacking options, though, further bolstered by the £25m capture of FC Porto playmaker Fabio Viera. Jesus and Viera join Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah in providing the firepower. Adding Watkins to that group would only boost Arsenal’s top four bid.