Diaby vs. Watkins is a common question for FPL managers but who is actually better? Bakchod FPL share their thoughts through an analytical lens.

With Diaby coming in, will that reduce the output of Watkins? Based on the data, it actually seems to be the opposite. Watkins becomes a better pick. Here’s why:

Watkins definitely had a Talismanic role last season at Aston Villa. While Ings looked like the focal point earlier, it was definitely Watkins in the second half.

Watkins in the last three seasons – Share of team shots – Share of team xG:

  • 22-23 – 20% – 33%
  • 21-22 – 16% – 26%
  • 20-21 – 18% – 28%

Now let’s look at these same numbers for Diaby:

Diaby in the last three years – Share of team shots – Share of team xG:

  • 22-23 – 18% – 21%
  • 21-22 – 12% – 13%
  • 20-21 – 11% – 10%

While he did play a supporting role to Patrik Schick in 21-22, he stepped up in 22-23. Okay, based on this it looks like there will now be two Talismans up top for Aston Villa. And Watkins’ output should decrease. So why do we think it won’t?

Well, we looked at the different formations used by Villa under Emery.

Under Emery, there were two formations that were commonly used:
1. 4-2-3-1 with Watkins as the number 9
2. 4-2-2 with Watkins and Buendia or Bailey playing the second forward (which will now be taken up by Diaby)

Surprisingly Watkins’ share of xG in 4-4-2 was 52% despite the second striker, much higher than the 33% which was the number for the complete season. Meanwhile, in 4-2-3-1, his share of xG was 34%, closer to the overall season number. Similarly, in 4-4-2, he accounted for 28% of the shots, while in 4-2-3-1 he took 22% of the shots taken by the team. One major reason is that Emery likes to create artificial spaces and Watkins has a good eye for exploiting them. This could be even better with a player like Diaby coming in.

Secondly, Villa also either baits a press from the opposition defenders and then:

  • Move the ball via quick passes in the midfield with players like Buendia, McGinn, Luiz and now Tielemanns
  • Or they move the ball over the last line, with Watkins as the target

And getting a second player opens up another option for the midfielders, which in turn leads to better chances for Villa. This could be seen in the friendlies as well. All three goals vs Newcastle comprised a lot of intricate passes that were created right from the back. The same could be seen again in the goal vs Lazio. Alternately, Diaby’s goal vs Fulham was played by Luiz over the opposition’s defence.
Lastly, we also looked at the formations played by Villa in the pre-season friendlies. Interestingly, they used the same 4-2-3-1 in the games against Walsall, Newcastle and Fulham. Meanwhile, once Diaby came in, they shifted to a 3-1-4-2 vs Brentford and Lazio. This looked like a more attacking version of the 4-4-2, the formation in which Watkins performed better.

To conclude, Watkins is still a good pick and could actually be even better with Diaby coming in. Other transfers like Tielemanns and Pau Torres will only strengthen Emery’s Villa further. On a personal level, I am really excited to see how Aston Villa play this season. Definitely one of the teams on my watchlist.

Thank you for reading. All feedback is welcome. Please like/share if this was helpful. Do follow us @BakchodFPL for similar threads and analysis.

You can find Fantasy Premier League (FPL) resources for the 23/24 season here.

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