Arsenal youngster ‘has to’ be considered ahead of Xhaka & Ceballos

Martin Keown has stated that Joe Willock has to be considered for a role alongside Thomas Partey and Mo Elneny in the Arsenal midfield.

The Gunners boss Mikel Arteta has been trying out a 4-3-3 formation in recent weeks, in what could be taken as a failed experiment against Leicester. The result didn’t go our way, but the reality is that we heavily dominated in large spells of the 90 minutes, and you wouldn’t be shocked to see the system come back into play.

Joe Willock has been thoroughly impressing in recent weeks, with two eye-opening displays against Dundalk and Molde of late, and you would have to believe those performances have not gone unnoticed by the boss.

Martin Keown has certainly sat up and taken note, and has labelled him as a player who looks to ‘make the difference’, and believes he has to be considered to play ahead of both Xhaka and Ceballos in a midfield three.

Keown said on BT Sport’s Europa League show (via TheSun):“He wants to make the difference, he’s got great technique and drive and they need to make use of that for the first time. He’s finding the extra gears and he’s maturing nicely. If he’s not getting the chances, is he going to have to go on loan?”

“We don’t know. He’s going to let the manager decide. The shape – they now want to play two, Elneny and Partey in that five. If he wants a third player Willock has to come into his thinking.”

“He’s got to be one of the first on the list to put those two under pressure. We have to work out a pathway for him to get in that first-team, if he has to go on loan – he’s not far away from getting it right.”

Does the youngster deserve more chances in the first-team after his displays? Could he be best used in a midfield three?


Tags Joe Willock Martin Keown


  1. I dont think he is fighting xhaka for a place, i think he is fighting Ceballos. Willock is showing brilliant traits and looks to be improving. This season is massive for him because if he can get ahead of Ceballos, then we have a player on our hands.

    1. Pity Nelson was not fit to play yesterday, as he is another who has impressed me in his limited opportunities this season.To me he is the best natural right winger we have ,and as Arteta has confirmed he would have started against Molde but for his injury.To be frank,Willian, who was a great player in his prime is no longer the electric winger he was and while his experience could prove useful in certain games he should not be an automatic starter based on his performances thus far.Arteta now has to balance how and when he plays his talented youngsters and I am confident he will do so effectively.

      1. My problem with Nelson grandad is his end product. He doesn’t seem to produce goals or crosses, his crosses are actually a disappointment after his work to get in position. Still early for him but i dont see him ready for the rigours of the prem yet.

      2. I don’t think Willian is used to playing in a side that lacks creative midfielders to be fair to him. We seem to revert to passing backwards if the break isnt on immediately when we gain possession and without creative ball players it’s hard for our wingers to make runs or push through lines.

  2. I agree with Reggie on it being Ceballos who is most likely to lose his place for Willock IF anyone does. I suspect that many Gooners believe that Willock brings something to the team – in Ramsey style, of late runs into the box and being willing to be ahead of the ball – that no one, since Ramsey left, has done or is willing to do.
    To my mind that is an an important asset that we will do well to value and I believe MA will be keen to do so, WHEN HE DEEMS THE TIME IS RIGHT!
    I am completely happy to leave that time to him and not put in my oar, at least not any more than I have already done. But I do not see Willock going on loan and feel sure that will not happen.

    1. I actually think willock is a more mobile quicker Ramsey type player Jon. He plays more for the team also. Very impressed.

        1. We could do with Ramsey being greedy in our midfield right now with his goals and his willingness to drive into the box and shoot because we don’t have any midfielders doing it at the moment.

  3. “has to be considered ahead of…”
    What on earth has Martin been smoking? Willock is obviously being considered “along side” Xhaka & Ceballos and in games like this would be the managers preferred choice.
    Arteta has heaped deserved praise on Joe which must be encouraging for him and at 21 looks to be on the verge of a possible regular spot in a midfield three, but please don’t let’s write other squad members off just yet. It’s a long season and they’ll all have roles to play.
    Having said that I’d love to see him against Villa on Sunday if only for the charming smile that seems to be permanently etched onto his face.

  4. Never really rated Willock, but gosh, his performance of late has been remarkable. Seems to be the only midfielder we have atm that makes frequent runs into the opposition penalty area. I see a Ramsey replacement there in him.

    I’m not one of those, though, who thinks I should be telling the manager what to do. He’s doing well so far, and I’d rather trust him on his choice of players and formation. I’m only interested in the performance and the results.

  5. If MA decides to go with a 433 system against Villa, than Willock should be the man along with Partey and Elneny. He seems to be transformed this season and MA could utilise his energy and late surging runs in the box to great effect. Remember we are at home against Villa and we need to attack them, but at the same time wary of Grealish. I still feel MA will go with a 433 because the onus is on Arsenal to win.

  6. Willock is thriving because whenever you see him with Saka and Nketiah in a line-up, you sense something special. The telepathy between those three is delight to watch.
    Our future looks bright.

  7. This is really positive, I see Ramey ‘s replacement in joe, He is such a technical player that arsenal has been lacking for some years now…The future is definitely bright for the gunners

    1. Silly thing is we had Ramsey. Would love Ramsey in this team right now I think he would be brilliant with Partey and Elneny.

  8. He’s got the skills, The technique and the number one on the teamsheet at the moment

  9. Joe Willock is a Midfielder who is interested in Goals and not only difference. Winning is Goals so Mr. Coach, take note of that. Xhaka and Ceballo are Not SCORING. So it is obvious that the Coach should give Willock a place in the Premier League matches. This is my plead Mr. Arteta.

  10. I thought Ceballos was an attacking midfielder, but he seems to be playing exclusively as defensive. I thought he did very well breaking up play last night but he doesn’t add much to attack. Is that just what his manager is asking him to do?

  11. From what I see Willock looks a better bet than Xhaka or Ceballos. Xhaka is too slow. He is a hard man, but slow in mind and body. Ceballos seems to run around like a headless chicken but has potential and has often been. Elneny has earned his place by doing his job perfectly. Eddie Nketiah has a missing part to his game….holding the ball up. Too important to ignore. Although Pepe had a generally difficult game he is still a goal maker and scorer and deserves to be in the team. I would test out a midfield of Partey, Willock and Elneny in a home game and play 4-3-3.

  12. Unfortunately I still think Saka is a bigger asset in the starting XI than Willock. In Prem games with greater intensity and less space Willock tends to give the ball away a lot or go missing entirely. MA should continue to start him in Europa, EFL & FA Cup.

  13. It’s fair to compare Willock directly to Ceballos and not Xhaka as he plays the box-to-box/creative role. Willock is certainly more athletic and dynamic at times while Ceballos is more assured in possession and can pick a killer pass.

  14. Xhaka has to compete with Partey and Elneny, not Willock. I think Xhaka will have to settle for a bench, because he can’t beat Partey or Elnerny. In attacking mid-field, Willock, Ceballos and Martinelli have to compete for that position.

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