Arsenal have some headliner youth products, with Joe Willock floating somewhere just outside. That will persist until we know what he is.
According to just about everyone, this is a golden age of youth production at Arsenal. It’s so good that we’ve got teenagers populating our first team and making a damn good show of it too. Guys like Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli spearhead the hype, but there are plenty more there at the top. And then there is Joe Willock.
Willock has two things that none of the other products have—he’s been at the top longer, and he’s arguably got the most raw talent of anyone here. There’s just one thing that’s holding him back, and that’s a complete uncertainty of what he actually is.
It’s not a problem for a kid as young as he is, but it is a hindrance for fans to truly invest faith in the guy. Again, because we just don’t know what he is headed towards without a clearer indication of that big, looming question.
At various times this year, we’ve seen Joe Willock play in all kinds of midfield capacities. He’s been a No. 10, a defensive midfielder, a box-to-box, and a regular central midfielder.
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In every position, he does his best to acclimate to what we need. When he’s in at No. 10, he’s moving with the attack, he’s picking out passes—or at least trying to—and he’s showcasing how much talent he has on that side of things.
When he’s deeper in the formation, we see more of his physicality and athleticism. We see him hounding the ball, making defensive plays and pushing play upfield. He gets a bit loose with the ball sometimes, which is a big no-no, but again, we see the talent.
All things considered, he could end up being one of those “do everything” midfielders. Except that he’s still a bit rough around the edges to have earned that estimation yet. Plus it’s always audacious putting that on someone still in need of fine-tuning.
But if that is his future, then we can wait a little bit longer to see it develop.
For us fans though, it’s hard to get excited about a guy that we don’t understand. No one knows how he fits into the team, so our faith feels a little unstable to be invested. Thus we turn to guys like Saka and Martinelli. But that can change pretty quickly.