Is this make-or-break time for Joe Willock?

Make Or Break For Willock? By Dan Smith

With some Arsenal fans it seems (never having been more reactionary), it doesn’t take a lot for a player to get overhyped these days.

First, we have had the demand for Elneny to now get a new contract, by the same gooners who mocked him for only passing sideways. The argument is he now works hard, and these are the squad players every title winning team needs. In reality he always worked hard, that was never an issue. As good as he was at Old Trafford, he was equally good at the Nou Camp.

Under Mr Wenger though you needed someone to blame and the midfielder was an easy target as he was on the fringes. Now we are patting the Egyptian on the back for not being rubbish. Quite patronising to a professional footballer who earns a reported 50,000 pound a week.

Oh and guess what? It doesn’t matter what a title winning team needs because we are not one.
Going in to Sunday there is now a spotlight on Joe Willock after he yet again scored in the Europa League. Apparently now, he simply has to start against Aston Villa.

I understand that there needs to be an incentive to play well in the Cups, but let’s calm down before we say we have found our creativity in midfield, shall we?

Playing well against Dundalk and Molde shouldn’t be read into too much. In fact anyone not comfortable against that type of opponents shouldn’t be at this level.

I heard comparisons he’s our next Ramsey, which we need as we lack goals from midfield. In reality he’s got one goal in 33 Premier League games.

He’s played over 50 senior games now so he can’t keep hiding behind a lack of experience. That’s not saying he can’t do it but only when he’s doing it in the Prem do we know if he belongs at this level.

This week will be crucial to his development. Out of our crop of academy graduates he’s been in the shadow of Saka; this is the first time he’s had this level of attention. How he deals with it will tell us a lot about his mentality.

My observations of him in the League is that he plays safe, like he’s scared to make a mistake. It’s like he’s won a prize to play for the first team and doesn’t quite believe he belongs here. That’s what decides if you play for a club our size or a midtable club.

If he did start at the weekend, would he demand the ball, run at his man, take risks, believe he’s the main man who can win us the game? A 21-year-old Jack Wilshire or Cesc Fabregas would have. That’s the standards we should aspire too.

You can’t on one hand say we can win the title but then not compare Willock to those who came before him.

Or does our manager protect him, leave him on the bench, send him away with England ‘s Under 21 and keep a comfort blanket round him?

That would equally reflect on Willock’s personality, as his coach sees him every day and will know the 21-year olds level of confidence.

Joe Willock’s career is like that scene in the Wizard of Oz. He’s done well in Europe but that’s the black and white. Sunday could be like Dorothy walking through a door. The Premier League is colour, it’s magical, it’s what everyone remembers.

Is Joe Willock ready?

Be Kind In The Comments

Dan Smith

Tags Elneny Willock


  1. Elneny has been grabbing all the headlines recently but to me he’s playing pretty much the way he’s always played at Arsenal. Perhaps he’s been a bit more adventurous with his passing for example the ball to Pepe for Willock’s goal but that’s it. Now he needs to add a few goals to his game and more risk taking when we’re attacking and we’ll have some player

    1. Exactly elneny has always been the safe sideways passing players since he was bought. That is his main job recycling possession and having a high work rate. What makes him stand out this season is the increased involvement in attacking situation. That makes him a better player but i still thinks he is only a good squad player; good but still a squad player.

      1. I agree with what you both said above and I’ll add one more thing.

        This is the first time since around 2006 that we have actually been defensively disciplined as a team and that has helped him be able to play his game

    1. Whatever anyone thinks of Willock (even I don’t believe he is arsenal standard, yet) but he has shown he deserves some minutes in the league.

      And you can’t really judge by 1 goal in 33 games with most coming during Emery reign. That statistic is slightly worse than young Ramsey.

        1. Love how people just make up random nonsense facts and dont even bother to google if there right lol, opinions are straight up fact these days!

  2. For my Coach Arteta:
    My astute Coach Arteta, please put Joe Willock to play 10 and you will be surprised. I cannot teach you your job but know that I am one of the highest observing and concerned Arsenal Fans from Cameroon. Joe Willock is very adventurous for goals He is a smart enabler for goals. He presses.
    Willock is Deffensive and at the same time Attacking; the kind that you need in your System.
    Don’t look for aged players all the.time.. Look for for dynamism, speed, creativity and high momentum to PRESS. Joe Willock has all these attributes. Instead of Kolastinac any time, put SAKA and Willock , then you will see Pressing from the left flang. Especially with Tierney behind them to from a Trio on the left flang. Try them during training Mr. Coach.
    Aston Villa Match will prove my point. Let Willock play “10” tomorrow and you will not regret listening to your Fan. Good luck

    1. Willock can’t even pass well, he is technically a very awful midfielder, he only comes alive when he is near the box, quality teams won’t just let that happen, he needs to go learn how to be a proper midfielder first. You guys though.

  3. I think he is definitely ready and has been playing well in recent games he has featured in. He is good moving forward and hits a clean shot. Hope he plays tomorrow.

  4. Elnenny for Arsenal has been distinctly average but the penny has finally dropped and he is a totally different player. I agree willocks performances so far have been in the EL and not the prem. Saka came to attention in the EL and then the prem, so is willock taking the same path but a little longer. Willock has looked a different player this season, has he grown up has the penny dropped, will he get the chance to show us in the prem. He looks at the moment the obvious next young talent we have to be given his head. People forget that we have lots of young players with obvious talent that could come through. It just takes time, it isnt an easy progression. I think the penny may have dropped with willock, he looks more like a mature footballer, not a precocious youth.

  5. Sound general sense in Dans article, as so often too.

    As a fan who has used the Ramsey comparison about Willock- indeed I suspect Dan had my posts on this in mind, when he questioned whether Willock IS the new Ramsey – I do not claim that right now Willock is as effective as the older Ramsey was when still with us, BUT I do see similar development traits, which is what I actually said, and not more than that.

    However, I do much agree with DANs view that in general some fans are far too quick to acclaim merely promising or improved players (Elneny!! ) as almost world beaters and new stars, when they clearly are no such thing. I call that having a sense of perspective and to my mind, perspective means you can get closer to the real truth than if you lack perspective.

    On THAT point I align myself with Dan and against some of the many excitable hotheads on here who vastly rush to overpraised players who are far from proven quality over a sensible period.

  6. Some excellent points raised in your article Dan. Tougher tests lie ahead for JW than Dundalk and Molde, but that does not detract from the fact that he was the best player on the pitch in both games and in the latter compared more than favourably with Xhaka and Ceballos who are both established internationalists and regulars in the Arsenal team.These matches will I am sure have raised his confidence to a new high and I am fairly confident he will carry this on when next he gets an opportunity in the EPL.Fans do get carried away and overhype certain players but Willock strikes me as a very humble, sensible sort of guy who will not be influenced by them, one way or another.

  7. Arteta is a smart manager. He doesn’t rely on a CAM because that type of setup is too predictable, but he instructed Willock to be a half-winger like De Bruyne instead

    I reckon Willock has the pace, physicality and skills to make crosses from the right side of the midfield like De Bruyne. Saka can be our David Silva on the left side

  8. Again, I cannot ignore Dan’s articles! Another well constructed piece! Essentially I must agree that making early observations about recent trends in a player’s development is never wrong (Joe willock in this case), however, it is too early to draw conclusions. Extensive observations over a longer period of time and test grounds is needed to draw more concrete conclusions.

    All the greats weren’t great in a space of one season but they were consistent over lengthy periods. I agree that Willock has turned a corner in his confidence level, ball handling capability, and tenacity. However, there are many other facets yet to be developed. Again, we can only wish these players all the best in their trade. Nevertheless, they cannot be pushed into the deep ends until they are certified ready. And that’s why I appreciate Arteta’s approach of blooding them in slowly and step by step…

  9. Play your inform players and see how far they can take it. Confidence, form and belief can change a player. I know some players will have to be drop regardless of form to suit the tactic being used in certain games.

  10. Willock has to displace one of Elneny, Cebbalos, Partey or Xhaka to get in the team unless we play 4-4-2. I could see a mid 3 of Partey, Elneny and Willock, which would give Willock the chance to be box to box like Ramsey was. ‘If you don’t shoot you dont kill’ is the old saying. Arteta needs to shoot by using Willock in some home games. To Play Partey and Xhaka together would be silly to me and we should never do that.

    1. SW, Ideally we should never play XHAKA at all and I still crave his exit. I do not remotely agree with all those who are now trying to say he is a new player. He IS lass gaff prone, I see that , but that is not much, as he is still ponderous and
      slow in thought and deed and his lack of mobility and of pace are awful permanent handicaps. He is not for me and never will be!

    1. Chelsea really looking good. So many playmakers. I am so glad the pressing game is fading. Good riddance.

  11. That’s arsenal fans I Know, they’re are easily carried away. One good play, he is Messi! One bad play , he should be looned out or be sold to a second tier

  12. Willock is the typical English young player that comes alive near the box but awful technically, I agree I like his runs but there is way more to the midfield than just that, reason Ramsey can’t even break into Juve in a slow league. He still needs loaning out.

  13. Willock has pace and strength, covers very well, daring but passes poorly,an advantage for now compared to Xhaka and Ceballos,

    Willock will allow Partey make daring runs, these are risk Partey can’t take with Xhaka and Ceballos in a game,

    Alexander Arnold was given consistent opportunity, I think Willock deserves a chance.

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