Of all the players at the club, Joe Willock is probably the most downbeat.
Something I’ll touch on again, as it still bears importance, is that Joe Willock made the most appearances of any Arsenal player last season. Primarily as an option off the bench, this doesn’t diminish from the fact that someone, somewhere have faith in him.
From what you’ll read online, not many of those are the club’s supporters. For one reason or another the academy graduate gets a lot of stick from the fanbase.
To an extent, it’s understandable. For someone to play so many matches but still not have his niche, nor know fully well what his best attribute is, does come with an air of concern. He’s only 21 years old, but at this point it’s still difficult to pinpoint where he’s best utilised.
I do have sympathy for him, though. Under the managers he’s played with, of the current academy crop, midfield has been the toughest to nail down. Eddie Nketiah is a striker. Reiss Nelson is a winger. Bukayo Saka is a forward. Joe Willock is a midfielder. But what kind of midfielder? A constant shift in approach and style has stunted his development at Arsenal over the past two seasons.
Box-to-box maybe? In the years to come, this is the mould he could slot into. His frame – and utterly stupendous engine – would indicate that he’s best suited there, while the fairytale remains that he’ll end up as something close to Thomas Partey. As unlikely as that will be, the addition of the Ghanaian should be seen as the perfect opportunity to hone his craft.
Partey – as touched upon – is pretty darn good at the lot. At present, Willock is trying to do the same. In possession he wants to be progressive, carrying the ball with pace and attempting, oftentimes, overly ambitious passes. Out of possession, he struggles to maintain defensive discipline at key moments.
With our new midfielder, his control in both attacking and defensive situations is exemplary. Willock wants to be a jack of all trades, but he needs to find his groove. Watching Partey on a day-to-day basis will help him unearth his forte. It has to.
All that dispersed energy must be capitalised on. Vital areas of his game – distribution and decision making – need work, but who better to learn from than someone world-class?