Newcastle battle shows us that some players are simply not Arsenal quality

Some Players Have Had Enough Chances To Impress! By Dan Smith

Eventually the core players responsible for our three wins over Christmas ensured that we still haven’t had a penalty shoot-out at the Emirates.

Arteta ideally wanted to rest goal scorer Smith Rowe, Lacazette who got an assist, and Saka who became our main outlet. If Andy Carroll had his scoring boots on it would be more of a concern that yet again certain talent didn’t make the most of their opportunity.

0-0 at home is when you should be able to rely on your record signing and/or one of your biggest earners.

Yet most of our attacks were built on the opposite side to Pepe which is quite telling, while Willian was subbed off after 66 minutes. At least those two have shown quality in their careers.

But this weekend was another wasted chance for Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson. If our manager is as ruthless with them as he has been with other players, then the jury still has to be out if they belong at this level.

I feel because they are young and British, they get a lot of patience from gooners who love the idea of an academy graduate succeeding. But they are not very inexperienced in terms of games played.

Willock has now featured for the first team 77 times, Nelson 47. In 39 and 22 prem appearances they have got a goal each and one assist. One is meant to be a midfielder who runs into the box, the other a winger.

If we are serious about returning to our previous levels those stats are not good enough (and why I will never believe Ozil can’t even make the bench judged on ‘football reasons).

To put those numbers into perspective Smith-Rowe has started 3 prem fixtures this season and already been involved in more goals then those two have since debuting in the League 2 years ago.

That’s not to say they are not talented. You must be to make it from the youth team all the way to the first team. Yet it’s only when you play do you learn who has the mentality to play at a club our size. They will excel at a mid-table cub where there isn’t the scrutiny of you don’t win every week. But I maintain they lack the personality required. They play it safe, scared to make a mistake. Compare that with Smith Rowe and Saka who demand the ball and try and make things happen.

This is why I disagree with squads having a quota of how many players need to be homegrown. These players will hang around for years based on where they were born, so Arsenal can tick a box.

For example, at a time when we need money, we could have got 20 million for Maitland-Niles who was tired of being a makeshift full back. He would have had more of a chance being the midfielder he wanted had he gone to Wolves. Yesterday, he came on in the last few seconds as drum roll…. a make shift full back.

To be a big club you have to act like a big club. Too many players are not good enough to wear the shirt.

It’s better to notice that while winning, before noticing until it’s too late.

Be Kind In The Comments


READ MORE: Latest news says Ozil is in “very advanced talks”

Tags Newcastle Reiss Nelson Willock


  1. I think (hope) AMN was being rested for the Palace game so he can shackle Zaha like he did with Traore. How he doesn’t start as a regular though is beyond me. Willian was a disaster yesterday and surely now that’s his last start for us? Pepé tried, he tried too hard at times, but he’s just not cut out to play on our right wing, surely a blind man can see that. I was hoping him and Nelson would swap wings but it didn’t happen. Let’s hope we get an easier draw in the next round rather than a top team like Newcastle😜.

    1. Is Bellerin injured? i preffer him, he is our best RB,
      i dont think AMN would have fair better at CAM than Willian, i actually do not know his best position though but i think i like him play wing or wingback

    2. I agree with the idea of starting Maitland-Niles to stop Palace’s LW, but it’d likely be Eberechi Eze since Zaha has been shifted to the front. Maitland-Niles never lost the duels against the likes of Zaha and Traore

    3. I’d like to think that AMN was being rested for the Palace game to shackle Zaha.Unfortunately,though,it would seem that Arteta doesn’t rate him and come the Palace game it will be Bellerin who is brought back to watch Zaha scoot up and down the wing and create chances at will against us.This is because Bellerin is part of Arteta’s favoured group of players which includes Willian,Mustafi,Willock and Neketiah…none of whom should really be given the opportunities that have been bestowed on them.time and time again.
      Prior to his series of injuries Bellerin’s main asset was his pace but this no longer exists.Otherwise he is a mediocre right back who is occasionally capable of a decent cross and gets caught out of position time and time again.
      I wouldn’t say AMN is the finished article by any means but he is quicker and far more athletic than Bellerin and with the proper coaching could be a real defensive asset for Arsenal in years to come…
      However given his lack of game time he will undoubtedly move on and become successful at one of our rivals in the same way as Balogun will similarly do and Martinez has recently done.

    4. Well Declan after reading what MA said few days ago on Wilian I doubt this is going to be the case,he talked about how hard they are working with him and he pointed out what he called many positives in his performances!

  2. First ill say football is a game of chances, if you miss yours you have yourself to blame, talking about Carol chances, may i remind you that we had clear chances too, lets say both attackers had no scoring boots worn.
    My thought allign with yours on the general view of the 2 players, I really do not know Nelson strong point and Willock?, i see another Ramsey, having a few good moment and lots of not-good-enough , if you dont like Ramsey pattern of play you wouldnt like Willock, but it will be hypocritical to criticize Willock, for someone who wanted us to keep Ramsey, you guys got your man in another.

    And Dan can we stop about Ozil already, lets move past that just as the club is trying to, we can all see nothing is changing about his situation, the best concession the club will take is paying part of his wage to be loan, so we are looking at future for now,

    1. in my opinion its not hypocritical at all ramsey is miles above willock even if they had the same playing pattern

      1. Agree Ramsey was frustrating but undoubtedly a quality player. Could have been world class if he saw himself as a midfielder and not an attacker.

  3. Have to agree with you Dan especially Willock who yesterday either seemed to give the ball away or made silly fouls a couple of which were in dangerous areas. Nelson shows the occasional spark but ( IMO ) not enough to warrant a first team place. I’m not a Xahaka lover either but to be fair to him I thought he had a good game when he came on.
    Smith Rowe and Saka are undoubtedly talented, and let’s hope we get some decent players in to support them long term.

  4. Good article Dan and especially the thoughts on Willock and Nelson. I feel these two players should have been out on loan at clubs where they would get regular game time and then assessed at the end of the season. Willock is just not up to Premier league level, and I feel never will be, especially at a club with high ambitions. Nelson has everything, but very rarely shows it, and how much longer will he be given?
    In my mind, they are never going to be of the quality we need. Saka and ESR are a million miles ahead of these two in terms of ability. If Arteta cannot see this then something is wrong somewhere. I would’ve very surprised if both ate at the Club next season. We have other youth players ready to come through so shy hold back their potential with two players who are proving they are simply not good enough

    1. lets not conclude on Willock, Ramsey was like that until he kept playing for us consistently to reach the height he is

  5. Moral lesson is that those players that started are not our first 11

    Smith-Rowe has been a revelation so far. Him and Saka are carrying the club on their shoulders.

    Lacazette has been sparked up by their energy.

    Good thing Arteta now know his best 11.

  6. To be honest willock should be out on loan and not return, he’s got chances, a lot to prove himself but no, he’s just🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️. Reiss has given us some flashes which we can hold on to. As for Pepe!!!! he’s never going to make it in Arsenal. He plays to his style and not that of the team. Willian????? I’m confused over the Brazilian coz he’s annoying me, had hoped he’d cause problems for our opponents this year but……..well we all know the story so far

  7. I’ve said for a long time now that Willock is not good enough at this level. He looks nervous, thoughtless, has no timing and is extremely clumsy. At very best a championship division player and that’s being kind.
    I’m happy to be proofed wrong but how much time should he be given? Quality players shine bright light diamonds all I see with Pillock is an old street lamp that needs a service.

  8. I think these players should have had been out on loan

    We have plenty of players, just not plenty of top quality players or at least good enough to propel us to fight for the title

    1. Completely agree. Arteta should not rotate so often. Subject to injury or fatigue … we need to field the best team and those not selected have to play better or move elsewhere. Willock and Nelson – and Nketiah – have had plenty of chances. They are all three very ordinary. Sako, Martinelli and ESR are more special.

  9. Willock is nowhere near as constant as Ramsey and Ramsey’s main issue was consistency. I feel we should be looking to sell both Willock and Niles as we could fetch £20 million each for them. The Nelson issue is tougher as Pepe and Willian needs to go first and we cant sell all our wingers at once.

  10. Arteta has his favourates otherwise I can’t understand why Soares who we don’t need plays while AMN is on the bench

    Why did we buy Soares and gave him a 4 year contract and complain about money

  11. Going out on loan to may be a Championship club can still improve Reiss Nelson, but if I can remember quite well Willock has been playing cup games since the latter stages of Arsene Wenger’s era, so I don’t think he has any improvement in him necessary for a top club. He should be allowed to go along side Nketiah.

  12. I am so sad for the injury to Martinelli. That boy is too talented to be constantly injured.

    Aubameyang now has an opportunity to get his goal scoring form from the left wing.

    On Thursday. I would like to see this line up.


    Aubameyang. Smith-Rowe. Saka.

    Xhaka. Ceballos.

    Tierney. Mari. Holding. Bellerin.


  13. Thin we should not sell Willock & Niles but have them start 2 games in their natural position.

    They are as good as Rowe and Saka if get a chance, were ahead of both.

    Unless he plans to play them mid-week, they shiuld have done so in cup.

    He doesnt get better than wgen you havr these kids on pitch as they are all trained to play Arsenal fast football.

    Cant judge without givin them a chance.

    To feature 50 or 100 times doesnr mean much if featuring in last quarter or 3 minutes as they are played.

    To me, Willock is an amazing talent as he combines many skills for a midfield, he is very hard to mark and play and often find himself in heart of action we not expect.

    Rowe was not played, people wrote about gegting rid of him same way once he got,

    Injuties and hilness forced to play him or he would sit as his friends..

    Send them on loan, Nelson was flying in Germany, brought back for that after half of a season.

    As Niles, ‘Rowe before lately, he is totally waist for second year, he should have stayed, this 2 years almost with no first tram action.

    If we not playing them, they should be on loan.

    Arteta and Niles are not getting along and you can see it. Even if Elneny not playing, he is not picked but Ceballos who is not a defensive midfueld.

    Qthletico wants Niles to replace Partey, he is dominant if played in Defensuve midfield position and exactly what Athletico sees in him.

    Once he blows there, everyone will regret, but he has no future at Arsenal with Arteta but be used to fill holes if bith RB or injured.

    Now clearly we do not need ceballos nor Willian, nor Luiz nor Pepe should be brought in nor Torreira, Luuz or Mari with Chambers,Saliba Mustafi, Sokratis but get rid of 2 last ones firsf. Chambers was ahead of Holding when fit, now he is very last? He is also good as a DL.

    Chambers, holding, Gabriel are our Top3 CBs

    1. I’m a fan of AMN but I’ve never seen him play DM. He has the necessary qualities in theory but the one time I saw him in midfield he looked like he wanted to get forward as well (and looked pretty good in doing so). The only real question id have about him playing midfield is his discipline – whether he can hold his position when needed. Part of that is experience and instruction, though.
      Really just think we need to make a decision on him and say “this is your primary position at Arsenal” (RB and CM look the most likely spots) and give him a fair opportunity to break into the side. Doesn’t look like this is happening and it’s a waste.

  14. Good article Dan.Willock and Nelson certainly did not produce the goods yesterday ,but as Declan alluded to Nelson is far more effective as a natural right winger, just as Pepe, would I am sure, be more effective on the left.If Guendousi is recalled Willock should be loaned out if at all possible.In view of the latest injury to Martinelli, Nelson should stay as back up.As for Willian, the less said, the better.If AMN does not start against Palace ,he is entirely justified in putting in a written transfer request.He really does not deserve to be treated as a standby in a season when he has won full international status.

  15. We’ve already known who’s winning us the games and Arsenal had better not change the winning team

  16. It’s not just these overrated youngsters … the bulk of midfield would not be in any other top half epl outfit … elneny xhaka willock Nelson willian (if played there) … basically partey Amn and ceballos would find places but that’s it … and I don’t recall arteta ever playing this trio when available … that lack of quality then drags attackers back in to doing midfield duties more than needed and leaves defenders spraying hopefull balls over the top to get a break … correction needs to begin this window

    1. I have a feeling Nelson wasn’t fully fit, which is why he was first to be taken off. Disappointed but I won’t be too harsh on him for this game.

  17. We will only have ourselves to blame if AMN leaves. He is, in my opinion, marginally better than Bellerin despite not being a natural right-back, and most definitely better than Soares. Why he didn’t play yesterday is beyond me.

    1. Bellerin wasn’t a natural RB when he joined, he was a winger in Barca’s youth team. Same as Ashley Cole I think (obviously in Arsenal’s youth team). Trouble is, the less AMN plays in a position the harder it will be for him to ever be seen as a natural in that position.

  18. A Good and mind boggling article here. As discussed by most., Totally agree at this point Willock should be sold or loaned out as he clearly cannot match the class that this club deserves.. as for AMN .., he is a good versatile player but i think he would get more game time in another club plus he would fetch good money for world class signings, if Wolves (or any other club) wants to buy him. On the other hand, the message was very clear yesterday our young guns ie ESR and BS need to displace the senior players and carry the team forward. As for Reiss Nelson he has the ability and i think he should be allowed time to continue growing and get experience in the RW position.

    1. Kinda agree,
      I would sell Willock, loan Reiss Nelson to a premiere side only, and play AMN as much as possible. He can rotate with Bellerin and play midfield next toPartey. I had hopes for Soares as a sub, no longer.

  19. Talking about players not good enough Xhaka and Elnenny are just not good enough for the engine room.
    To hear last night’s pundits stating positives about them after their contribution to Wenger and Emery’s reign is total nonsense . Willian is just too slow now even the opposition backs can out pace him, pity really.
    More than ever it’s men at peak fitness that win games most ,apart from the exceptional , would struggle.

  20. There are at least fourteen players in Afcs current squad who are just not good enough Luis,Willian,Willock,Mustafi,Kolasniac,Soames,Chambers,Nketiah,Elneney,Xhaka,Macey,Socrates plus the two trouble makers Ozil and Guendouzi.
    Macey and Kolasniac have already gone,Ozil,Mustafi,Luis and Socrates are certain to go this year as thier contract are up.
    So that’s 6 outta 14 for going for sure,almost half if they can offload the other 8 this year the Arteta era is taking off.

    1. I would say Guendozi is good enough and young enough, but him Arteta will probably never kiss and make-up. Chambers was also good before injury.

  21. I think we are Lucy to have ESR and Saka, because of their present performances and also what the future holds. I think AMN’s best position would be DM, but these days a DM must make 60 passes a game. Willock would also be wise to learn the art of DM, because he just doesn’t have the skillset to be a great AM. Nelson need solid regular opportunities. If Pepe was playing with a good RB, it would also helps.

    1. The one thing that makes Willock stand out at is his late runs into the box to score goals. I don’t think he has everything needed to be a proper DM and he wouldn’t make it if that were his primary position.

  22. I agree, Dan. Amazing how everything changed after those few changes in the 2nd half!
    I think it’s obvious who our game changers and fighters are right now!

    I do quite like Nelson, but he needs a loan, as does Willock – pretty frustrating watching him! And as for a couple of our senior players – words fail me haha!!

  23. I hope the 3 recent league wins isn’t papering over the big cracks that exist. And yes ESR & BS are playing well now but they do need cover in those positions.
    Alas, one could take a look at the majority of the squad and make a case for selling or loaning. The management of some is curious and I wonder what ‘coaching’ involves these days – time spent coaching Willian at 30+yrs is bemusing. January window activities – move on any 6 from 15, get Partey fit for rest of the season, bring in experienced AM (Eriksen ?), terminate Willian contract, play PEA in Vardy type role and get the ball forward much quicker.

  24. Willock is a hard worker, most times he’s been featured with our tired experienced players, in most cases he’s efforts look wasted,

    Take the Europa as a good example, Willock plays fine because he’s fielded with players of like-energy, so the problem isn’t Willock but his surroundings each time hs fielded.

    WIllian, Nelson, Pepe and Aubameyang were supposed to receive balls from Willock yesterday but they were no where to be found,

    This is the major problem

    1. Going forward our policy should be quality as opposed to quantity, a £50 mil – £ 60 mil attacking midfielder should be where we start.

  25. I understand the need for special treatment for young English players. This is simply designed to ensure that the league facilitate the English team. I have no quarrel with that. MA has done some serious self-injurious stuff. Here are my issues:

    1. Why play more than 10 games without a number 10, with Ozil available? This is stupid. If you wish to get rid of Ozil, then replace him. We cannot play with such a hole.
    2. Why take so long to include Smith-Rowe? Why wait until people begin to sound threatening before calling for the boy?
    3. Why play Willian if we are 2 times more likely to score with him off the pitch? Does MA not check the stats. What kind of contract do we have to serve as the graveyard for Brazil?
    4. Pepe is a striker or false 9 – not primarily a winger. His weakness is his defensive skills. There have been several videos showing that he needs to be close to the goal to run into the box and create havoc. Look at his many penalties. I see a video that shows that 60% of the balls he collects are in his own half as we have had no real #10 to feed him. When he gets kicked down he is far from the penalty box. We are destroying a decent player. Why is he being punished for Arsenal over-paying for him?
    5. Why does Willian get time to work his way in and he is from the league – but Pepe is not, though he is the one who needs it. Yet Pepe has shown glimpses of what he can do and Willian seems to come to retire.
    6. Why is Balogun not the striker when Lacazette needs to rest? He is clearly more of a striker than Nketiah?
    7. Why are we experimenting with Bamma as a striker. He does not hold up the ball.
    8. Why are we pretending that we have tall players and keep playing from the flanks as a substitute to fixing the #10 problem?

    Can anyone answer these questions for me. I am confused. I only played as a number 10 at secondary school level. My team had 3 #10 players. We were advised that we were the core of the team. I fell in love as a child with Arsenal because my coach used to try an imitate the Clubs formation. Can someone tell me what we are up to these days. I do not believe that we have turned any corner if MA is going to do the correct things one step at a time. My coach usually says that his greatest test should be if he played his best team on the day.

  26. Dan
    I just cant let this one go , one quality player we let go on loan and am happy it’s only a loan , understand Edu may have insisted no clause inserted in it, is Saliba, the young man should have easily allowed to develop along with the three wise kids,
    Am hoping and praying good sense prevail somewhere along the line, its said absolute power corrupt, hope we aren’t going there

  27. Dan your usual well thought out article and I agree with virtually all your who will and who will not make the grade comments One major beef though which grieves me, as it is a constant thorn and has become , it seems, an obsession with many of your articles. That is the Ozil saga of course.
    Dan , you need to accept that you have lost this battle and if you do, you will win the war of keeping respect and your own mental comfort. Just asTrump has lost his battle but refuses to accept it, with obvious harm to many but also to himself, you- who are nothing at all like Trump, perish the thought, are in this Ozil case, ALONE, behaving as he did though in less harmful way to others thankfully.

    OZIL WILL NOT PLAY FOR US EVER AGAIN AND IS PROBABLY ON THE VERGE OF LEAVING THIS WEEK, so give it up Dan and let us all keep respecting you as a wise man and not as an obsessionist.

    You ask for kindly comments and I mean this in a kindly way, as I MUCH RESPECT YOU AS A MAN AND AS A WRITER. PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME LOSE THAT RESPECT.

  28. Hey Jon
    I accept Ozil will never play again but my argument has never been should he play or not , it’s simply have the cub replaced him with anyone better ?
    That they havn t is poor and I will point it out .
    I won’t stop simply because it doesn’t suit others agenda .
    No different by the way peepes were quick to say in the summer how we won the Cup without him and how Arteta was better then Mr Wenger
    So again we can’t only make comparisons when it suits us .
    If your unhappy that i can say Ozil is good enough to be in our squad , then blame Arsenal not me
    The y had since March
    As for anyone not respecting me ?
    I respect anyone’s right to an opinion but also exspect that in return.
    As long as you do that without being personal , I can accept you not respecting me lol

    1. Thanks for your reply Dan I do not think it accurately sums up what you have actually written in your many articles which mention OZIL.

      YOU HAVE OFTEN SAID THAT HE SHOULD STILL PLAY, SO DO YOU DENY THAT FACT? SPEAKING OF RESPECT,what I most respect is complete honesty from other folk.

      Disagreement on opinions are what this site thrives on but when you deny facts about what you have often written, well yes, I DO lose respect. The added fact that you have ALSO wrtten about who should replace him, which I agree you have, does not alter the fact that you also wrote that he should be in our team.

      Two separate matters and my clinical mind can easily separate the salient fact from the red herring you injected.

  29. Great article.Agree with your comments on Willock and Nelson. These boys are simply not good enough for Arsenal and they have been given plenty of chances to impress.Some of the comments on here beggar belief. Must be watching a different game.!,,,

    1. Well to clarify my stance Ozil should play based on our current options although he won’t for reasons away from football

  30. Good article. Agreed on the points except AMN. I think we should not sell him because he is someone who can play multiple positions and such players are valuable to the team.

  31. Good one. But the worst set of arsenal players are Willock, Nelson and Nketiah. you Englishmen dont criticise your players. These guys will never learn. Not of Arsenal stuff and should be sold pls.

  32. Good article. Agree Nelson and Willock haven’t been playing well and questions can be asked if they should be sold based on their performances thus far. My only issue, if we do sell or loan, who replaces them? We can’t play Saka, Partey, Laca and the likes every game. This is the whole point of 25 man squad. As nice as it would be to have a 20+ players all good enough for first team, can Arsenal afford it? Currently, not even close! Any player that feels they should be first team regulars are gonna demand being paid like first team regulars. That’s beyond Arsenals financial powers. So as much as the Nelson/Willock players drive us mental, in this financial climate, that’s about all we can afford.

  33. There are still people above believing Willock has something to offer. Based on what I see This guy rates with Gibbs, Deckchair and Bentner as players who failed to deceive. Some will blame the managers for their lack of progress,but the obvious truth is that they were not good enough. Ramsey on the other hand I am willing to concede could have been one of the greats. Once Arsenal picked him up as a teenager, we fans were all thinking, Robson, Keane, Ince,,Gerrard etc.,one of the great midfielders. Hard and skillful. Then of course the broken leg. It took him years before he ever went in hard again, was often injury prone and didn’t really have the skill set to match it with Ozil, and Sanchez. You could often see Sanchez’s frustration because Ramsey was too slow to read a pass anddidn’t have the telepathy that those two had. Raul, obviously didn’t want him. I don’t think Ramsey was asking for more money than William was later given. Good luck to Ramsey for breaking into a poor and very old Juventus team. His running and enthusiasm are obviously a bonus but knowing Juve, they will be out looking for better. In his final year at Arsenal if not exactly a converted Ramsey fan, I was hoping he would stay. Who else did we have and hasn’t the qualify of the playing staff gone down since he left.

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