Ivan Toney: How Brentford Seamlessly Replaced Ollie Watkins

On August 31st, 2020, Brentford announced the signing of Ivan Toney from Peterborough. Although there’s been no official confirmation regarding cost, it’s believed to be around £5 million rising to £10 million with add-ons. After his arrival, the deal opened the door for Ollie Watkins to complete his move to Aston Villa, making him the third-most-expensive sale in Championship history, behind only Moussa Sissoko and Nathan Ake.

On paper, replacing Watkins, who scored 25 goals in the 2019-20 campaign, wasn’t going to be a straightforward task. However, Toney has hit the ground running, which is a testament to Brentford’s highly-successful recruitment policy. So, here’s how the 24-year-old has effortlessly filled Watkins’ boots.

A Desire to Prove the Doubters Wrong

Talent alone only gets you so far in professional football, and that’s part of the reason why Toney’s becoming one of the best English strikers around. According to his manager, Thomas Frank, the 24-year-old has the “inner drive and determination” to reach the top level, while also proving that Newcastle United were wrong to let him go in August 2018.

In terms of stature, both Watkins and Toney are five-foot-ten strikers and like to utilise their pace to make runs in behind opposition lines. Aside from speed, they each possess the strength to hold off defenders, allowing them space for shooting opportunities in the box. Through playing on the shoulder, Brentford’s style hasn’t changed from 2019-20 to 2020-21. As such, they play to his strengths, and that’s what’s allowed Toney to hit the ground running.

Is Bent Right? Is Toney a Better Forward?

Fascinatingly, Darren Bent believes that the Bees now have a better forward in their ranks compared to the one that left for Villa Park. On talkSPORT radio, the former Sunderland striker stated that, in his opinion, Toney is a superior finisher to Watkins and possesses more composure in front of goal.

Although it may seem unlikely because Watkins is playing in the top-flight, there’s an element of truth to Bent’s comments. In his final season at Griffin Park, the Torquay-born striker scored 25 goals in 46 appearances, averaging a goal just over once every two games. By comparison, after 26 matches, Toney has 20 Championship goals to his name. With the latter stages of the season still left to play, the former Peterborough attacker is just five goals away from Watkins’ best return for the Bees.

At the time of writing, the 24-year-old is averaging 0.8 goals per 90 minutes. Although it’s not guaranteed, should he sustain this goalscoring rate over the final 20 matches, then he’ll end the campaign on 36 goals. Because of his existing ruthless in front of goal, as of February 5th, he’s priced at 4/9 in Championship betting to be the top scorer come the end of the 2019-20 season. Moreover, he’s also on course to beat Glenn Murray’s total of 30 goals back in 2012-13.

Toney Epitomises Brentford’s Recruitment Approach

It’s fair to say that few forwards would have effortlessly fitted into Frank’s style of play at Brentford. Toney, however, is an exception. From an attribute standpoint, he shares numerous similarities with Watkins, hence why he’s thriving at the Brentford Community Stadium. That said, for the 24-year-old, he’ll now have his sights set on creating his own legacy and breaking away from comparisons to the Villa forward.