Ollie Watkins' case for Football Writers' Association player of the year rivaled winner Phil Foden of Man City

Published on May, 04 2024

Manchester City's Phil Foden won the Football Writers' Association player of the year prize on Friday with 42% of the votes ahead of Arsenal's Declan Rice, his club teammate Rodri, Gunners captain Martin Odegaard, Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins and Chelsea's Cole Palmer. The 23-year-old has 16 goals and seven assists for defending Premier League titleholders City, plus five more UEFA Champions League goals, three assists, an extra pair of FA Cup goals and another goal and two assists in the FIFA Club World Cup for a total of 24 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.


Although the FWA is primarily a domestic-based award, it does take into account contributions across all competitions and it is easy to see why Foden came out on top based on that overall statistical snapshot of Foden's season. The England international has been a standout performer in a City side which is the favorite to claim another Premier League title and possibly another FA Cup too, despite Erling Haaland's prolific form dipping slightly of late, although their Champions League heartbreak at the hands of Real Madrid might linger for some time to come.


For Foden to take 42% of the votes is understandable when you consider how much harder it is to statistically measure Arsenal pair of Rice and Odegaard as well as City's Rodri up against Pep Guardiola's English star, but there was other competition in the field. Villa's Watkins and even Chelsea's Palmer have both had impressive Premier League campaigns with the former a particularly intriguing candidate given how balanced his overall contribution has been for Unai Emery's team which is punching above its collective weight again under the Spaniard.


The case for Ollie Watkins

Watkins has 19 goals and 12 assists in the EPL alone with three more UEFA Europa Conference League goals taking him to 22 as part of a Villa side closing on Champions League qualification and in the UECL semifinals despite a raft of significant injuries to important players. His 12 assists are a Premier League-leading tally with Haaland's total of 21 goals only two ahead of the 28-year-old which underlines how baffling Watkins' struggle for England recognition was while only Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min is close to matching his double figures output with 16 goals and nine assists.


Watkins arguably merited greater consideration for the FWA award and could have justified finishing a few positions higher with Villa's improvement under Emery perhaps now taken for granted and underplaying what a massive achievement the Birmingham-based club is on the verge of. Seven points clear of Spurs in fourth place with three games left to play despite Tottenham's additional game in hand and you could argue that Villa's astonishing turnaround under Emery has become less of a novelty over the past 12 months which means there was maybe extra scrutiny on Watkins and his teammates' domestic cup shortcomings.


Chelsea's Palmer has arguably paid the price in a different way given that the Blues were not in Europe this term and that his form has hit a particularly hot streak very late in the day, once most minds were probably made up. Regardless, the 21-year-old's 20 goals and nine assists in the EPL alone grow in stature when you factor in three more domestic cup goals for a total of 23 and there were even two goals before he left City in the UEFA Super Cup and the FA Community Shield which is impressive for such a young player playing for a club which is not even guaranteed to finish in the top six.


Ultimately, it is harder to measure Rice, Rodri and Odegaard against Foden, Watkins and Palmer as the latter trio are more attack-minded which lends itself to being easier to quantify and therefore offers a more or less direct comparison. If Chelsea's disappointing season overall counts against Palmer, though, then Villa's impressive campaign should bolster Watkins' argument further given his combined 34 goal contributions -- irreplaceable for Emery's Villans -- falling only two short of Foden's total from fewer games across all competitions.

C. Palmer O. Watkins






1 month ago

Foden has been a revelation for City this year. The way he weaves his way through the midfield is reminiscent of another City legend, David Silva. Only 23, Foden hasn't even peaked. Barring injury, he should shine for the next 10 years.

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