Some Arsenal fans are never happy.
They wants us to “sell dead wood” and cash begin raising more funds from academy products that are not at the required level.
And then they moan £25million is underselling a player not required and moan about selling an academy product that is not at the required level.
£25million for Joe Willock is a good deal for Arsenal.
Willock has had his chance
Joe Willock has played 78 games for Arsenal since making his debut in September 2017.
He has shown glimpses of being a decent player, but has not shown enough, on a consistent basis, that he will ever be top player.
Compare Willock to 2 academy products who have cracked it – Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.
Both Saka and Smith Rowe are younger than Willock and have performed to a higher level.
Last season whilst Willock was struggling for game time, Smith Rowe came in and took his chance with both hands.
Smith Rowe moved ahead of Willock in the pecking order which was the main reason he was loaned out and ultimately sold.
Willock turns 22-years-old soon. So lets stop the talk about how much potential he has.
Arsenal need better than Willock (and Smith Rowe)
If we want to progress as a team, we need better players than what we have.
That is why we are targeting someone like James Maddison.
Maddison is levels ahead of Smith Rowe, who is levels above Willock.
When you are targeting someone to come in at the top end of the squad, someone at the bottom end will end up making way.
If we are looking at Willock as a 10, buying Maddison drops him down to 3rd choice. £25million for a 3rd choice player is a good deal.
“But he can play deeper than 10” is an argument I have seen some people use.
For Newcastle, his fantastic performances came playing in behind a striker. For Arsenal, when he has played deeper, his passing has been exposed.
Willock could become a good box to box midfielder. He certainly has the energy to get around the field. But his passing is his poorest aspect of his game.
You can not play central midfield if you can not pass.
Willock’s strength is finding space in the box and scoring goals.
We have already established that he already has Smith Rowe and potentially Maddison (or another 10) ahead of him as an attacking midfielder. He also has numbers ahead of him deeper.
Split our 4 central midfielders up into 2 groups – the ones that sit and the ones that press.
In the press group it is Thomas Partey and Albert Sambi Lokonga. Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny are the sitters.
Partey is clearly ahead of Willock and Lokonga has shown enough in pre-season for me to say he is also the better player. So Willock would be “3rd choice” for that position.
As a sitting midfield; Willock has never played this position.
Yes, you could argue that “Willock is a better footballer than Elneny” but this is irrelevant as Elneny is a better sitting midfielder than Willock.
So at best, Willock would be 3rd choice at 10, 3rd choice at “8”. You could argue that he would be good to keep him around covering both positions. But I would rather have the £25million
£25million is too low. It should have been £40million
I do wonder sometimes if people understand how the transfer market works.
A player is only “worth” how much a team (or teams) offer for him.
If Willock at £25million was too low, where were all the clubs competing for his signature?
Literally no other club than Newcastle was in for him.
Had Everton, Leicester City or West Ham wanted him, it could have created a bidding war which would have pushed his price up.
But there was no bidding war. No multiple clubs after him. It was just Newcastle.
So this left Arsenal to negotiate a price that suited Arsenal, whilst Newcastle were negotiating a price that suited them. I the end £25million wad considered a fair price.
Had Arsenal demanded £40million, the deal would have collapsed. Newcastle would not have paid that.
Likewise, if Newcastle refused to pay any more than £15million, Arsenal would have walked away from the deal.
With no other suitors, Arsenal had a choice:
Take the £25million or pull the plug on the deal like they did with Xhaka to Roma.
What would happen if we kept him?
So lets say we pulled the plug on the deal. What would have happened?
We would have had a player who was 3rd choice and hardly playing – he started just 2 Premier League games for Arsenal when he was higher up the pecking order.
His contract expires in 2023; so if we kept him we would have had kept him it would be a new 5 year contract.
In 2 years time when he has had a couple more loan deals and barely played a game, the same people moaning that £25million is too low would be moaning that we were stupid turning down the offer and giving him a new contract..
Where were the other clubs
When selling a player, I always think about where he ends up.
There is a reason why Willock has ended up at Newcastle and was not being targeted by Leicester City, West Ham, Everton, Leeds or Aston Villa.
He is mid-lower table level; not Arsenal level.
And the future?
Well with £25million in our pocket and a squad place freed up Arsenal can get back to recruiting.
Lets lay out a mythical situation.
Leicester City want £60million for Maddison.
Arsenal have just raised £25million selling Willock.
In negotiations, we offer Ainsley Maitland-Niles as part of the deal – Maitland Niles nearly joined Leicester in January for £20million.
If both clubs honour that valuation, than it is realistic Arsenal could agree a deal with Leicester that is £40million + Maitland Niles.
£25milion of that £40million is covered by the sale of Willock.
So we would see a net swing of £15million expenditure to bring in James Maddison with two academy products who were surplus to requirement also making way.
In summary, Arsenal have got £25million for a 22-year-old midfielder who was not good enough for us. With just one club in the running for him we have maximised the transfer fee.
If we can now do similar with other academy products (Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson), then the rebuild can continue.
I would suggest there are some fans who will moan about everything that the club do.
They have moaned we are selling Willock. They would moan had we kept him and offered him a new deal. They think it is cool to be an “anti-fan”.