Name: David Watson
Position: CM, AM, DM
Preferred Foot: Right
Strengths: shooting from distance, finishing, versatility, creativity
Areas for Development: dribbling, ground duels
At the age of only 18, Scottish football is David Watson’s oyster. The Prestwick-born midfielder has been a sensation in Derek McInnes’ Kilmarnock side this season, contributing three goals and two assists in 20 Scottish Premiership appearances. Watson broke into the Killie first team last season, making his Premiership debut against Rangers in March. Despite playing in 10 of the last 11 league games, he failed to contribute to a goal.
This only goes to highlight the improvement in Watson’s game this season, with his goal-scoring, in particular, reaching a whole new level. With goals already against both Celtic and Aberdeen away, he has demonstrated in two of the toughest atmospheres in Scottish football that he can handle the pressure. Watson has also shown versatility in earlier wins this season against Rangers and Celtic at Rugby Park, taking on a more defensive role. In matches where the Ayrshire side are on the back foot, Watson is just as capable of playing a more defensive role in McInnes’ team.
The Scottish midfielder is clearly years ahead of his age in footballing intelligence, displaying versatility in the roles he can play. Under McInnes, he has one of the best managers in Scottish football over the last 20 years, who will undoubtedly be able to further nurture him as a player.
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) January 12, 2024
Statistically, Watson has overperformed in front of goal with an expected goals (xG) tally of 0.10 per 90. He has 0.17 goals per 90 in the Scottish Premiership, but this can easily be largely attributed down to two of his three league goals coming from outside the box, highlighting his incredible ability to score from range. Watson’s knack for scoring from outside the box has proved crucial this season for Kilmarnock, providing an element of unpredictability in their attack and leading Killie to fourth in the Scottish Premiership table.
Watson’s passing also stands out, contributing 15.47 successful passes per 90 minutes with a pass accuracy of 63.7%, further reflected in his expected assists (xA) tally of 0.11. Despite playing deeper at times this season, Watson’s statistics show that he is just as capable of scoring goals as he is at providing goal-scoring opportunities for teammates.
Despite his remarkable contributions to Kilmarnock’s success this season and his development at the club, it’s crucial to recognise that every player, especially one as young as Watson, has areas for growth. While his goal-scoring abilities and versatility shine on the pitch, delving into specific statistics reveals potential areas where Watson could further develop as a midfielder.
With one area where Watson struggles is his dribbling ability with a success rate of only 37.5%. Watson also only attempts 0.33 successful dribbles per 90 minutes, with the lower success rate indicating that he struggles in maintaining control of the ball and beating opponents in one-vs-one situations.
Watson will undoubtedly improve his dribbling ability over time, especially considering that this is his first full year in professional football. It is harsh to comment on negative aspects of his game at this stage. As he becomes more agile on the ball, this will enhance his ability to play through tight defences, adding an additional layer of dynamism to his attacking play.
With the recent successes of Lewis Ferguson, Aaron Hickey, Ryan Christie and Nathan Patterson, Scotland’s top-flight has solidified its reputation as a proving ground for promising talents.@Callum7McFadden on five SPFL players to keep an eye on in 2024.https://t.co/RMRtFho5wQ pic.twitter.com/6oMt3RYYiH
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) January 3, 2024
While Watson demonstrates great success in overall duels with a win rate of 41.2%, his ground duels won percentage is notably lower. Winning only 5.47 ground duels per 90 minutes at a success rate of 41.2%, suggesting that he faces challenges in one-vs-one situations on the ground. Improving his effectiveness in ground duels would enhance his ability to regain possession and contribute more effectively in midfield. Strengthening his abilities in ground dueling could be a key focus for Watson’s development, providing an added layer of defensive stability to complement his existing strengths in passing and attacking play.
Overall, Watson has proven himself to be an incredible talent this season, in a position where in recent years Scotland has been able to produce the likes of John McGinn, Billy Gilmour, Callum McGregor, and Lewis Ferguson.
At the age of 18, Watson is poised to continue his development at Kilmarnock for the foreseeable future. Having signed a new deal with the club in November, which extends his contract until 2026, it seems likely that the hidden gem of Scottish football will continue his remarkable progress in Ayrshire.
As Watson continues to deliver consistent performances, added pressure will come and speculation surrounding his future at the club. However, for the time being, Watson has somewhat gone under the radar outside of Kilmarnock. While Celtic and Rangers have been seemingly concentrated on scouting players abroad, Watson’s rise in East Ayrshire has not garnered the same attention from the Glasgow giants as it might have in previous years.
By: Michael Shearer / @MichaelcShearer
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Craig Brown – SNS Group