I have always been a huge champion of our academy products.
After winning trophies, getting to watch someone who has come through your academy, bleeds red and white, making it is the next best thing in football.
I will always have an affinity to kids that come through the system – whether it was Ray Parlour, Jack Wilshere or Bukayo Saka.
But not all kids will make it. In fact the majority will not. And we have to thank them for their time and wish them luck at their new club – and wherever they go I will keep an eye out for them.
We have a few academy products who are finding themselves at a cross roads this summer – Eddie Nketiah, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock.
Whilst you will find very little support or justification for us to keep the first two, there is a conversation to be had over Joe Willock.
Willock has taken his loan spell to Newcastle by the rough of the neck and put in match winning performances for them.
Despite his good form, Arsenal should resist turning down an offer over £20million from the Geordies if it comes in.
I am pleased for Willock, he has done fantastic. But that does not mean he is good enough for Arsenal’s long term thinking.
“Where does he play” and “can he fit the system” are the two most important factors.
Is Willock a box to box midfielder or a “10”? That has been a question asked by many throughout his career at Arsenal.
He certainly has the physical attributes to be box to box – he is tall (although he still needs to fill out a bit more) and has an engine on him. But whenever he has played deeper, he seems to get lost.
His passing is the weakest area of his game.
For Newcastle his pass completion ratio is just 73.5%. For Arsenal this season in the Premier League it was 78.2%.
Last season in the Premier League for Arsenal it was 82.8%.
Compare this to Mohamed Elneny (92.7%) and Granit Xhaka (90.1%) and the drop off his huge.
Thomas Partey has been accused of being sloppy on the ball this season, but his completed pass ratio of 86.9% is also superior to Willock’s.
Willock just does not suit playing deeper and needs to be further up the pitch.
That then puts him competing against Emile Smith Rowe.
Arsenal still need creativity and goals in the top end of the pitch.
Smith Rowe is superior to Willock when it comes to creativity – his technic, passing and vision is vastly superior. Whilst Willock is the better goal scorer.
Edu, Mikel Arteta and the recruitment team need to be looking at players that are better than Smith Rowe and Willock. Someone that provides the goals and assists on a more consistent basis – Houssem Aouar remains a target.
That would leave either Willock or Smith Rowe playing second fiddle to the new signing.
So do you go with Willock’s goals? Or Smith Rowe’s creativity? That is where the system is then important.
With regards to the system, Willock with his pace and ability to drift into the box has a game made for counter attacking football.
But Arsenal do not play counter attacking. We do not defend deep and look to hit teams on the break. We try to dominate play and possession.
Therefore the attributes that he has bought to Newcastle will not be as devasting for Arsenal.
Meanwhile Smith Rowe is better suited to playing in those tight areas. Short sharp one touch passes. Operating with not much space.
So if it is a choice between Smith Rowe and Willock as understudy to whoever else we bring in, Smith Rowe is the better option.
That would leave Willock as 3rd choice in the position – and with financial constraints as they are the £20million could be used elsewhere on the pitch than tied up in a fringe squad player.
Willock will go to Newcastle and perform well. He will suit their style of play and their fans will love him.
But for Arsenal to kick on and return next season as a top 4 team, we need to funnel funds into better players. And cashing in on Willock, Maitland-Niles, Nelson and Nketiah raises important funds.
I think that your stats about pass completion is just sh**t reasoning as Elneny Xhaka etc. pass the ball one thousand times sideways during a match and have an inability to be direct and press forward, one of the reason we have been unable to score against Everton and Villareal and why it is so hard for Arsenal to score and win at home.
Willock has a directness that nobody in Arsenal midfield possesses and advising to sell is just like the Martinez decision. If Arteta sells him , its all because he has an inability to develop the potential of players, but needs 11 players that fit his style.
I condemn people like you who try to be influencers without be able to analyze things and situations logically.
Willock should be given time and used with tactics that suits his abilities instead of going on the market and buying players like Cedric, Willian, Pepe, Ceballos and even Odegard.
Shane on you with your bl**dy reasoning.
you have a brain damage i think, Willocks type of football shows best on counters or rebounds, and arsenal juss does not play that type of football, he will never have an impact in arsenal just like he has never had before save for those Europa outings with teams from weak tiers. If you love the guy and you care about his future then you must put him not only on sale but in auction so that he can play for teams like newcastle, Leeds etc.
The fact he has scored more goals than the rubbish Elneny and Xhaka is a huge difference, anyone can pass side to side and backwards, it’s the end product and the two mentioned are not and never will be good enough. Arteta is not the right coach to take us forward, he is dragging us backwards with his negative style of football. We are not an attacking team, we are a side to side and backwards team, and I wonder how long the fans will put up with it once they are let back in, it will be toxic in The Emirates, even worst towards the end of Wenger and at the heart of it the poison Arsenal TV
Totally agree, left a similar message on another site. Willock is a head down footballer, he rarely looks up and picks out the right pass in the final third. That`s an ability that is extremely hard to coach, in fact, I`d say its something you`re born with. He`s definitely got goals in him but lets be honest here, although its always nice to see a young kid come through the ranks, the likes of Willock, Nelson, Nketiah and Niles arent going to get us back to where we want to be. If people take an objective view and compare those players with ESR, Saka, Tierney and Martinelli they`ll quickly realise that there is no comparison. Willock`s stock will never be higher than it is now, we should cash in. We also need to get rid of a lot of these senior players who simply arent good enough and whose wages are eating into our budget. A thorough clear out and full rebuild is needed. That is going to require funds and creative thinking in the summer window.
I stopped reading when you wrote “we don’t hit teams on the break”. We used to and we still try. However, one of the reasons both Elneny and Xhaka have such great passing percentages is because they always play it safe. There was a counter attack a few games ago which is a perfect example of the uselessness of the pair. We were on the counter and it was assed to Elneny, who passed it back to the defense and you could physically hear Lacazette berate him. I’ve said it for years. We don’t play counter attacking football with players like Xhaka or Elneny, because they don’t know how. But as a team, we have strikers and mids that were bought from teams or brought through the academy playing in that style. Then they Xhaka playing it safe or Elneny breaking down his own attacks. Great pass percentages sure. But completely ruins the flow of the game. The trio of Wenger, Ljungberg and Emery all saw this and tried to sell him. Wenger tried to get 15m for him from Leicester, but he refused to go. Emery tried to flog him but no one wanted him. Arteta plays him and yeah, on occasion he has a good game, but for the majority of the games he’s the worst influence you could hope to have on the pitch. Never looks forward, constantly plays safe. We need players like Willock, players who will look forward. What’s the point of having Aubameyang if we never play balls to him and constantly just try and cross it for him. No. We need players like Willock back at the club.