Brighton v Arsenal: Match in pictures
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Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins has reportedly emerged as a target for Arsenal ahead of next season. The 25-year-old, who scored 16 goals in all competitions last time around, is said to be on Edu’s list of potential replacements for out-of-contract star Alexandre Lacazette.
The Frenchman will be a free agent next summer and is not expected to agree fresh terms at the Emirates Stadium.
Lacazette is yet to start a Premier League game for Arsenal this season and looks set to move on in the near future, either in January or upon the expiry of his deal.
The Gunners are drawing up a plan of action to replace the 30-year-old and have already earmarked Watkins as a possible long-term alternative, according to The Sun.
The report claims that Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin could also be targeted by Edu in time for next season, with both players likely to command significant transfer fees.
Watkins has taken to life in the Premier League like a duck to water since his move to Villa from Brentford last summer.
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His goal return helped the club to achieve top-flight security with a mid-table finish last season, with the striker earning a place in the England setup in the process.
He was quizzed on the possibility of a move to Arsenal before joining Villa last year, admitting to the Sports Gazette that it would be a dream come true to play for his boyhood club at some point during his career.
“That’s the dream, to play for Arsenal one day, but, you know, it’s a long shot,” said Watkins.
The Villa forward also revealed that he idolised Arsenal legend Thierry Henry as a child, insisting that the Frenchman is one of his all-time favourite players.
“I’m an Arsenal fan, so Thierry Henry was my [idol],” he added.
“He’s unbelievable to watch. He was the idol growing up, really.”
It remains to be seen whether Arsenal will be able to tempt Villa into parting ways with Watkins, who is a key man for them and has played in five of their seven Premier League games this term.
He is under contract at Villa Park until the summer of 2025, suggesting that his current employers would only consider selling for a premium fee.
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Villa boss Dean Smith waxed lyrical over Watkins towards the end of last season, paying special attention to the development of his mentality over the course of his Premier League stint.
“I think his game has got better,” Smith told reporters back in May.
“I’ve always said he is one of the best pressing centre-forwards in the Premier League, which is huge praise indeed. He is backing that up with goals.
“He is a lad who used to beat himself up a lot if he missed chances, but he gets over that a lot quicker now and that’s a sign of a really hungry and top young player.”
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