Joe Willock’s Future Must be Protected
It is very clear, even from the previous window, that Arsenal are targeting a move for a midfielder who can offer creativity through the middle. Even with the emergence of Emile Smith-Rowe, Arsenal will still look to sign someone who can rotate and cover the position. There is also the possibility that Arsenal resume their chase of Houssem Aouar in the summer (which they should, if they are a serious club).
All of this leaves Joe Willock in a quandary. If Arsenal get in their creative midfielder, he will be surplus to requirements. With the possibility of Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi still around, it makes a place for Willock really difficult. This would not be such an issue had Willock grabbed the many opportunities he had been afforded to take a place in Arsenal’s midfield. But unlike Smith-Rowe or Bukayo Saka, he simply has not been able to, especially in the Premier League.
It is easy to imagine that this is all Joe Willock has to offer: being swallowed up by the monsters of Premier League football – but that would be wrong. Willock is not at his best the way a player like Elneny is. He is still just 21 and naive. Arsenal must be very careful not to have another case of a Serge Gnabry or Jeff-Reine Adelaide. We must ensure that Joe Willock has every opportunity to up his game and develop. That would be good news. Even if he ends up not good enough, an improved Joe Willock can be sold for more money. Or even kept as an homegrown squad option.
But it is very clear that Joe Willock should not be taking more minutes in the EPL with Arsenal — at least for now. How do we then ensure that we squeeze the maximum out of him?
A loan is the answer. Joe Willock must be loaned out to someplace where he can be affordws plenty of minutes. Chelsea use the loan system very well, and we have done the same with even more talented prospects in Smith-Rowe and Reiss Nelson. Send him to the championship. If he improves massively, great news. If he just does OK, great news again. It means we can sell him for more.
Whatever we do, Joe Willock’s value must be protected and maximized. A loan is the best way to ensure this.