Bruce wants Willock permanently
Willock has been instrumental in Newcastle’s survival fight, firing in five goals in his eighteen appearances for the North-East side to propel Steve Bruce’s team to fourteenth place, twelve points clear of the relegation zone.
This has led to the openness of Bruce regarding the want to keep Willock on a permanent deal.
“All of us would love to [make it permanent]. [Joe] Willock, 21, a midfield player and heâs got five goals since the turn of the year, so of course we want him â but we have to respect that heâs Arsenalâs player,” BruceÂ said.
This summer feels like something of a crossroads for Willock’s Arsenal career. Making 29 appearances for the Gunners in the 2019/29 campaign, he was often used as a substitute, racking up just 840 minutes across those appearances. Loaned out to Newcastle for the second half of this season, Willock has demonstrated his quality that he failed to show against better opposition. Still only 21 years old, his market value (Â£14.4 Million) feels key to a club looking for finances to rebuild.
A free 8?
After a 1-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in December 2020, Mikel Arteta revealed that:
âWe want to move to a 4-3-3 but for that, you need a lot of specificity in every position but now in five or six positions, we donât have it”
“Could Willock fill one of those positions in the future?”
Certainly, he has looked promising in the Europa League games which he has featured in, whilst he has a knack for being in the right position at the right times in the opposition box.
However, the quality of the opposition in the Europa League must be taken into account; Dundalk, Molde and SK Rapid Wien are hardly Premier League opposition, and Willock has struggled to nail down a position in Arteta’s side for higher profile fixtures.
In those that he has found himself in the squad for, Willock has failed to make any significant positive impression, largely in keeping with the majority of Arsenal’s squad. Unlike Bukayo Saka or Emile Smith Rowe, his fellow academy graduates, Willock does not visibly make Arsenal a much better side, not least in part because he has no real position in the 4-2-3-1 Arteta has utilised to date.
Going forward, however, his athleticism, goalscoring touch and all-round game could lend itself well to filling one of the no.8 roles in midfield that Arteta is looking for.
Will his value get any higher?
The counterargument, of course, is to sell Willock whilst he finds himself in-form.
Arsenal appear to have missed this opportunity too often in the past, most recently with another academy graduate Ainsley Maitland-Niles, whose stock will likely never be as high as it was last summer
Wolves made formal offer (below Â£20m) for Ainsley Maitland-Niles yesterday. Rejected by Arsenal as they seek higher fee for versatile 22yo. Among other interested clubs, 2 in Germany understood to be preparing bids. Background for @TheAthleticUK #WWFC #AFC https://t.co/CxhbX2McWn
â David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) August 26, 2020
Maitland-Niles has since fallen out of the England squad and been relegated with West Bromwich Albion, whilst it looks as though his Arsenal career is over.
Speaking to Goal, Arteta hinted at his summer plans when he said that:
“I think a project has its phases and I am telling you we are in a much better position today to be where we want to be very soon, if we do what we have to do. But we have to be ruthless.”
Deals such as the sales of Joe Willock and Ainsley Maitland Niles may just be a part of the ruthlessness that Arteta is aiming for. Of course, selling an academy graduate will always rankle with fans, but in this scenario, it may be a case of accepting some short-term pain to reinvest the money, ultimately, into long-term gain.
This article was edited by Tom Canton.
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