Despite being one of Arsenal’s best performers this season, Joe Willock is yet to play a single minute in the Gunners’ Premier League campaign, with his minutes limited to Carabao Cup and Europa League fixtures.
Whilst Willock’s opponents may not be to the same standard compared to what the starters have faced in the league, the 21-year-old’s profile could be very beneficial to Arsenal’s Premier League side.
The England U21 international is someone who is always willing to drive with the ball and take people on, a trait which is only seen in one other Arsenal midfielder, new recruit Thomas Partey.
When speaking after the Gunners’ 4-1 win in the Europa League against Norwegian opponents Molde, manager Mikel Arteta acknowledged that Willock brings unique qualities which no one else in the squad can give, and that he’s very happy with his development.
Arteta said: “He has some special qualities that only he has in this squad, and that we have to use. I think you could see the last game he showed what he can do, to play in those pockets and to make runs into certain areas.
“He’s got the ability to make the box, and he’s grown in his understanding of the game. I’m really happy with the way he’s evolving, he’s doing everything he can, so the fact he’s not playing more is because of the competition in those areas.”
The young midfielder has shone when he has played this season, particularly in the Europa League, putting in man of the match performances in the two games he has started, whilst also grabbing a goal and assist in each.
Willock is a threat when it comes to goals, whether that is scoring or creating them, with the midfielder becoming Arsenal’s youngest player since Theo Walcott to score 5 times in European competitions for the club.
Despite his age, Willock has scored more than the rest of Arsenal’s midfielders in the past two seasons, with the Englishman also making the most appearances out of any player in the squad last term, racking up 44 games in total.
However, this season, Willock’s only played in five matches for the Gunners, which is surprising given the quality of his performances, alongside how much he played in the previous campaign.
Furthermore, with the arrival of Thomas Partey, his path into the Premier League team looks difficult, however he will be hoping that his positive Europa League performances, along with the poor displays of Arsenal’s starting midfielders, will be enough to push him into contention.
Mikel Arteta has admitted him and his staff will need to re-evaluate over the international break, after the North London side fell to a shock 3-0 home defeat to Aston Villa. Given the attacking problems Arsenal have faced this season, Willock will be hoping to finally get his deserved chance in the Premier League, as the Gunners look to start firing again.
*All stats provided by Transfermarkt.