With the new year fast approaching, we’ve decided to explore the football issues which are close to the Red Army’s heart this festive period.
In this fourth installment of a five-part series, we ask one of the burning questions followers of the Dons will want to know the answer to for 2021 – Should and will Aberdeen extend the stays of Bristol City-loanee Marley Watkins and/or Leeds United’s Ryan Edmondson?
One of the loanee attackers remaining at Pittodrie (permanently) should be Aberdeen’s priority
First of all, Aberdeen should do everything possible to extend Bristol City attacker Marley Watkins’ loan deal until the end of the season. The Dons should also move to retain Leeds United’s Ryan Edmondson for the remainder of the campaign.
The loan deals for both Watkins and Edmondson expire in January and there are legitimate arguments to retain both.
However, the over-riding priority must be securing Watkins until the end of the campaign – and then moving to sign the 30-year-old permanently. Derek McInnes has already suggested an extension to the attacker’s loan is in the works.
Watkins’ contract at the Championship Robins ends in the summer.
If Aberdeen can thrash out a deal to extend his loan, it will elevate them into pole position to sign the Welsh international when he becomes a free agent.
Watkins netted just twice for Aberdeen in 13 appearances before a hamstring injury, which required surgery, derailed his loan spell.
However, he delivered so much more than goals and he was pivotal to the Dons racing to one of their strongest league starts in two decades.
One of Marley Watkins’ goals for Aberdeen came against Ross County in Dingwall:
Watkins was the focal point and the conduit for a potent, fluid, fast attack that were vibrant going forward.
He linked up play, held the ball well, dragged defenders out of position and ripped apart back-lines to create space.
Watkins’ pulled the strings in attack with his game intelligence and movement, while Ryan Hedges and Scott Wright thrived in support of him.
With Watkins leading the line, the Dons attack was multi-dimensional.
In his absence, it lost its vibrancy and often became one-dimensional.
In his 13 games for Aberdeen, eight were victories with three defeats and two draws.
That was a win rate of 62% with 23% loss and 23% draw.
The statistics are clear. With Watkins in the team, the Dons win the majority of their games.
His presence in leading the line was sorely missed following his injury as Aberdeen slumped to a four-game winless streak.
Watkins was drafted in after the Dons board sanctioned a move for an emergency loan due to a striker emergency crisis.
He started in a 2-1 defeat of Livingston and made an immediate impact.
Watkins then started every game after that until suffering the hamstring injury in the 2-0 Scottish Cup semi-final loss to Celtic.
Loan until end of season is gateway to Marley Watkins permanently replacing Sam Cosgrove as top striker at Pittodrie
As I’ve said above, if Aberdeen can successfully thrash out a deal to extend Watkins loan they could potentially move into the driving seat to land him permanently next summer – the player will know the club and will have seen the appreciation of the fans.
That could open the way to securing a player for nothing who was bought for £1 million from Norwich in summer 2018.
A potential complication could be if the Ashton Gate hierarchy decide they want to cash in on Watkins in the January window before he walks away for free next summer.
The financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis has effectively wiped out Aberdeen’s ability to splash out transfer fees next month.
Dons boss Derek McInnes has admitted he will strengthen in January, but it will be loan deals and free transfers.
This could change should Aberdeen receive a bid too good to reject for last season’s leading scorer Sam Cosgrove.
It would also have to be a deal that suited Cosgrove after the striker rejected a £2.7m transfer to French second tier side Guingamp in the summer.
Aberdeen had accepted the bid for Cosgrove.
Cosgrove’s contract expires at the end of the 2021-22 season, so the Dons only have three windows to cash in on their prized asset before he can leave for nothing.
McInnes had previously attempted to sign Watkins on a permanent deal when he left Inverness in 2015.”
Aberdeen boss McInnes is also keen to tie up a pre-contract agreement for Ross County striker Ross Stewart in January.
Stewart is out of contract at the end of the season.
That Bristol boss Dean Holden sanctioned the loan for Watkins indicates he views the attacker as surplus to requirements.
McInnes had previously attempted to sign Watkins on a permanent deal when he left Inverness in 2015.
Barnsley eventually edged out the Reds to his signature, but the attacker recently admitted it was a close two-way race between the clubs.
Only the desire to prove himself in England after winning the Scottish Cup with Inverness tipped the balance in Barnsley’s favour.
What has Ryan Edmondson brought to the Dons’ side?
England Under-19 international striker Edmondson has also done more than enough to warrant an extension to his loan.
Highly-rated by Premier League Leeds United, he is tipped as a star of the future at Elland Road.
He just needs game time at a high enough level to get him to the position where he can push to break into Marcelo Bielsa’s team.
Edmondson is raw, but the talent is undoubtedly there.
It should be remembered he had not started a first-team game at any level prior to arriving at Pittodrie.
He was thrown into the deep end for his debut for the final 25 minutes of the Premiership opener against Rangers (1-0 loss) and did not look out of his depth.
Edmondson brings lighting pace, determination, physicality and also skill to the table.
He is another different option for McInnes and showed his scoring touch when netting a double in the 4-2 defeat of Hamilton in October.
Edmondson has the potential to star for Leeds. He is hungry to break into that Leeds side and Aberdeen can benefit by giving him a platform to prove a point in the second half of the season.
‘King of the Beach End’ Joe Harper sees Watkins as the focal point of an exciting Aberdeen attack
Aberdeen’s all-time leading scorer Joe Harper believes the Reds should move to extend the loan deals for both Watkins and Edmondson.
Goal legend Harper, who scored 205 times for the Reds, said: “The loan deals for both Watkins and Edmondson should be extended until the end of the season.
“Watkins gets himself across the front line and holds the ball up very well for other people.
“He brings people into the game as well and is a quality player.
“Aberdeen should definitely try to keep both of them on.
“Edmondson is a talented young player who has impressed me during his loan spell when given the chance.
“From what I have seen of Watkins and Edmondson this season, they have offered more than enough to extend their time at Aberdeen.”