Arsenal midfielder Joe Willock at crossroads ahead of summer transfer window

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

It was towards the end of Unai Emery’s time at Arsenal that the Spaniard made the bold claim Joe Willock could fill the void left by Aaron Ramsey.

Willock, who had just turned 20 at the time, was beginning to assert himself in the Arsenal squad after scoring six goals in 15 games for the club.

Emery had been impressed by the midfielder, most notably his knack of chipping in with goals, and he was not short of praise for him.

“He deserved to start this season with the first-team and with us,” Emery said back in October 2019.

“My decision was after I saw him the last two months of last season working with us, his really big challenge was that Jack Wilshere left here, Aaron Ramsey left and he had to take that opportunity to be with us.

“The last months of last year was the moment I spoke with him and said, ‘For you it is a big challenge in the new season to do differently and really show us you can take their position in this squad’.”

Emery was sacked around a month after those comments, which was a shame for Willock because he was beginning to flourish under the now Villarreal boss.

It is fair to say Emery did not leave Arsenal with masses of credit, but his willingness to blood young players cannot be ignored.

Soon after he was appointed in 2018, Emery took a 17-year-old Emile Smith Rowe with him on the tour of Singapore and gave the attacking midfielder, and fellow youngster Bukayo Saka, their first-team debuts that season.

Emery felt it was important to give young players a chance at Arsenal, well aware that was the club’s tradition, and Willock trained with the first-team as soon as he was appointed.

Getty Images
Getty Images

The midfielder had to wait for his chance, but when his opportunity arrived he took it with both hands.

Willock’s development has plateaued since Emery compared him to Ramsey and, now 21, his career is approaching a crossroads this summer.

He impressed during the early part of this season under Mikel Arteta, excelling in the Europa League when Arsenal’s Premier League form was nose-diving. He finished group stage with three goals to his name and, when opportunities looked limited for the second half of the season, he left on loan during the January transfer window.

Newcastle won the race for him and he has flourished at St. James’ Park, so much so that the Magpies want to sign him permanently this summer and believe a fee of £20million could tempt Arsenal into selling.

Like Emery, Newcastle have been impressed by Willock’s habit of popping up with a goal. He has scored five times since moving to the north-east, with four of those coming in his last four games, against Tottenham, West Ham, Liverpool and Leicester. Such a contribution has been valuable for a side fighting for their lives under Steve Bruce.

Willock is the first Newcastle player to score in four consecutive Premier League matches since Papiss Cisse in 2012, and has overtaken Andy Cole as their youngest player to achieve that feat.

Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

His five goals in 11 games is more than any Arsenal player has managed in that time, while his tally for the season is also more than all of the other midfielders still at the Emirates combined.

It is why some argue Willock should have a role to play under Arteta. He offers something different, primarily goals from midfield, and for many that is a strong reason for him to stay.

Arsenal’s situation, however, makes things more complicated. The club has been hit hard financially by the Covid-19 pandemic, while no European football next season will also dent their coffers. It is hard to imagine the club turning down bids north of £20m for a player who came through their academy and essentially cost them nothing.

They must also keep in mind that Willock has just two years to run on his contract and now feels like the time to either cash in or tie him to a new deal.

Either way, it is a dilemma for Arsenal and Willock, who hasn’t yet lived up to those Ramsey comparisons but is still young and has shown at Newcastle what he can do if he given the chance to shine.

Read More

Arsenal transfer news: Newcastle confirm interest in permanent Joe Willock deal

Joe Willock: Arsenal loanee scores in fourth successive match for Newcastle against Leicester

Joe Willock hands Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta selection dilemma as midfield fortunes change