Joe Willock Will Come Good
Many people undersell Joe Willock. They complain about his lack of technique, initiative with the ball and average mentality on the pitch. To them Joe Willock is not exceptional and never will be. He should have been sent out on loan and sold as soon as his market value gets high enough.
Unfortunately, the age of polished young talents like Foden, Saka, Arnold etc and Football Manager has spoiled people’s perception of how young footballers develop. Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Danny Ings, Kante, Riyad Mahrez, Dmitry Payet, Kovavic are all examples of late bloomers. All of them showed some promise at a young age but were not exceptional until they reached a level where they got to play regular football. Even some of the older youngsters like Tammy Abraham, Emile Smith-Rowe, Tariq Lamptey, Martin Odeegard were not teenage superstars like Bukayo Saka. They just were not as polished and needed some patience and regular football to calibrate themselves to adult football. Even Kevin De Bruyne had to spend some time at Wolfsburg. Mesut Ozil played for Werder Bremen. Serge Gnabry needed regular football in a mid Bundesliga side.
Not everyone is born accomplished. Some players simply need adjustment to senior football. The question however is if they have some outstanding attributes to them, some quality that, when polished up, might make them good footballers.
This is where Joe Willock can be properly appraised. Willock is an outstanding physical specimen. As a teenager, he could power through adults in midfield with the ball without breaking his stride. That quality alone ensures he is likely to become a mobile juggernaut physically. Someone who can dominate his opponents at ease. Ordinarily, this trait makes it easier for him to find senior football easy. Where the likes of Foden and Saka are dynamic carriers with great technique and can change direction rapidly whilst folding their bodies, Joe Willock simply bounces through challenges like a horse. He can’t be shoved, pushed, pull or clattered into easily. If he can add more range and technique to his carries, you are looking at an elite powerhouse midfielder. A Yaya Toure at carrying the ball.
This is not only Willock’s outstanding quality. The young Englishman also has elite off-the-ball movements and third-man runs, you know, the things Frank Lampard was renowned for, that we loved in Aaron Ramsey and that is winning Gundongan plaudits this season. This is a trait belonging to only the best of midfielders who have the game sense and ability to time their runs into the box at exactly the right time.
This is why Joe Willock always scores and why he will always score in his career. It does not matter what level it is: third-man runs are impossible to defend against and Joe Willock is going to be elite at it.
This is what every coach in the Arsenal academy sees when they see Joe Willock. He is basically another raw Aaron Ramsey. This is why Arteta, Ljunberg and Emery rate him so high. If other aspects of his midfield play can be improved (technique, passing, discipline, positioning) and his footballing nous developed, we may have an unstoppable midfield monster on our hands.
Still only 21 and already obvious that he’s an athletic goalscoring midfielder from open play, it would be criminal for anybody at Arsenal to write him off before he is 23. If it will take two more seasons of loans for him to improve his general midfield play, so be it. His assets are too good to be impatient about. Us fans will bemoan it if we let him go for cheap and he starts getting 10 Premier League goals a season regularly. He is one of ours and we must believe that he will come good.