Blackpool 0-3 Arsenal: Emery’s Golden Problem (and how to solve it…) [Positive Needs & Hopes]

nketiah willock

Willock reopens the modern day dilemma

Depending on how brave Unai Emery is or how patient the club are, Joe Willock may yet become a regular Arsenal squad player.

Or maybe not……

Here’s the thing.

I’ve seen enough of young players not being trusted to come to the conclusion that the trust is almost exclusively about the defensive side of the game. Often that is used as an excuse too.

The player who has been on everyone’s lips this week in English and German football has been Callum Hudson-Odoi at Chelsea.
For those that read regularly they will know that I’ve been championing signing this boy all season as he has the attributes to be a world star.
Sarri rarely plays him and if you pay attention to Sarri’s career he likes the same 11 and doesn’t feel the necessity to sub either.
Bayern Munich want him and the rumor is that Chelsea want €40M.
That’s €40M for a guy who has played no more than probably 5 full games of league football minutes in his life!

There is a long list of young players that PL clubs in particular didn’t/don’t use.
Sancho, Ampadu, Foden, Camacho, Greenwood and Mount to name a few.
Arsenal have Willock, ESR, Nelson, Bielik, Medley, Nketiah, Saka and until recently, AMN.

Chelsea's Hudson-Odoi

Chelsea’s Hudson-Odoi

I think as the game is becoming more of a coaches game than a players game that the coaches don’t trust these youngsters to be able to position themselves correctly and even understand the importance of defending.
These are players who have been brought up in first class club conditions, have a nice salary for guys who don’t play much and perhaps they don’t fully understand the importance of two way football.
I think that tracking your runner, doubling up with the full back, zonal spacing etc…., are repeated daily on the training field and have become vital to coaches that they simply can’t trust a youngster to do it properly.
Maybe that’s fair. They can’t fully know the game at 18. Is it important to perform these defensive skills….. sure.

I look at Joe Willock yesterday and I quite honestly don’t see much if any technical difference in him and first team regulars. Going forward this boy is a danger. The midfielder making the late run into the box is almost going extinct and this boy has it.
So what doesn’t he have? It’s what I stated, alongside experience and trust.

So, what does a club do with a guy who is good enough but they don’t fully trust?
Firstly, I’d start one super talented youngster at a time. START them.
I’d pick the right game, maybe a Cardiff/Brighton. Then I’d let the same player start at least 3 others.Then I’d let another have the same opportunity, again against the right opposition.
I’d definitely have one or two of them on the bench every game.
As an example, if we were always going to sell ElNeny then why not put Willock on the bench instead as he has a far higher potential ceiling.  When we aren’t desperate for his defensive knowledge (3-1 up vs Fulham), let him play 20 mins. Then another 20 mins the next time.
When we are losing, should we be so afraid as to whether Bukayo Saka fully understands defensive tactics when Iwobi/Mkhi are having a bad day! Throw him on!

academy graduates

High ceilings

I think football coaching is riddled with fear.
What if this, what if that?

What if we are 2-1 up and Joe Willock was given the chance to score a third rather than worrying whether he will track his runner!
There are two ways to do it. Stop them from scoring or score more.
Football is too focused on the former and petrified of the latter.

You want to win vs West Ham? Me too.
Could we rest Guendouzi and play Xhaka, Torreira and Willock as a three? One destroyer, one passer and one who penetrates.
Would that make us too weak against West Ham? No, I don’t think so.

You want to win next season? Me too.
Knowing the club has limited funds and a huge wage bill with certain players who may not leave, we can’t have worldies in every position. So, we better know at the end of the season if someone like Joe Willock is the man!
Don’t play a guy who is probably good enough?… then he’ll leave.

Iwobi has had 3 seasons of ‘being trusted.’ I’m not saying that was a bad idea but I would have shared his opportunities last and this season with Reiss Nelson who I think is a more natural footballer.

At Arsenal I think Unai Emery has the perfect situation. Pep let Sancho and now the equally talented Brahim Diaz go to Dortmund and Real Madrid respectively as he has more pressure on him to win.
Emery will be given time as long there are signs of progress which there clearly are.
I think Unai Emery should play Joe Willock. Play him for 5 months and you may have saved yourself £20-60M on a midfielder that you already had!
Jadon Sancho left City, became a starter at one of the Champions League contenders within 3 months and is now rated at £90M!!
I’m not saying Mahrez was a mistake at all but City had this £90M player who played the same position. They had him!!!!!
There is every chance that Foden, Sancho and Hudson-Odoi, to pick three, go on to become giants of European football, but will they do it at a Premier League Club?
I’m betting that at least 1 of that list of 8 Arsenal youngsters will do the same.

Will it be at Arsenal?


* Lastly, on Willock….
You noticed how similar his attributes are to Ramsey?
Should we be spending what little money we have on an area that we have a guy who may be comparable given the opportunity?
I’ve said on here for a while that I’d of got rid of Ramsey in the summer for £40M plus and shared his (mostly sub minutes) between ESR and Willock.
That £40M could have gotten us the winger we need and we would have already replaced Ramsey.
If we sign Denis Suarez I will be excited.
I hope he doesn’t take these boys opportunities away though.

* AMN’s general attitude towards improving and especially his diagonal runs behind the defenders in the first half.
When he stops checking out mentally I think Bellerin will be the first one with his place under threat.
It’s a shame that we had to wait until Hector got injured and Lichsteiner proved to be not very good before we gave AMN a chance.
I’m getting frustrated again. Better move on 😊

* Cech has improved his ability to diffuse dangerous situations by calmly catching and distributing from crosses.

* Jenkinson played well. Looking at his reaction to the crowd today, I wonder if he knows he’s off?
Quickest way to save £40+ a week for the club.

* Iwobi’s body strength is improving. Lower league teams always bring aggression and Iwobi wasn’t for budging.

* Sokratis got better and better as the game went on. A true well rounded defender.

* If ElNeny leaves AFC I want to go on record as saying I think he maximized his potential. Does exactly what he’s able to very efficiently. Fans get frustrated at him as there is no razzle dazzle.

* It was good to hear an interview stating that Koscielny thinks he’s getting his pace back.
We can be so extreme in our views and way too quick to judge.
Retrospectively, you’d be fine if you were told that LK took 7-10 games to find himself again.
When it’s live, people lose their heads and say stupid things.



* Wondering why Medley and Saka weren’t given more time today?
If not today, then when??

* When I watch Nketiah I get a feeling that when he gets 1 or 2 he’ll fly.

* Sokratis’ weakness is his vertical jump from a standing position.
Gets caught under crosses too often.
Maybe take a step back and attack it on the run👍🏻

* Lichsteiner’s passing 😳😳😳

* Not understanding the attacking corner that just leads to general play. Seems odd.

* As I say weekly, Arsenal have to be more ruthless at attacking corners. Block players, move defenders for the benefit of others.
Corners are just proving fruitless at AFC.

* Just my opinion and just a thought…
I think Mkhi will be sold in the summer due to his inconsistency and particularly his wages.
When he got injured my knee jerk thought was that AFC are making a ‘false injury’ so they can sell him late January. I have no evidence of this but if we are desperate for funds and he’s on £175,000 a week and we could get £25M + for him to spend on a natural winger, I’m wondering if the club is trying to expedite his exit?



* Most importantly, that you will say a prayer for the founder of this site, Dave Seager. He and his family would appreciate that 👍🏻

* Also, that we don’t have a ‘Sancho situation’ at AFC next season where we spot this familiar looking chap playing somewhere else and worth ridiculous numbers when we had him, but were never brave enough to trust him.


I think it’s cool that they played on a Sunday League park field.
Maybe it will humble them to appreciate the snooker table at the Emirates!

Oh, and in case you missed it, let’s not regret playing this generation of fine young players!

Give me a follow @mike_mmcdonald and read the other guys for sure @GunnersTown

3 Responses to Blackpool 0-3 Arsenal: Emery’s Golden Problem (and how to solve it…) [Positive Needs & Hopes]

  1. Andy January 6, 2019 at 4:56 pm #

    I enjoy your insight and agree with you about the young players. This group coming through now are the most exciting bunch of players we have had since the early Graham years when adams, merson, rocastle and thomas burst into the scene. I enjoy the Europa league for a chance to see them. I hope Emery can bring them through.

  2. Wilberforce January 7, 2019 at 8:21 am #

    Great Post.

    I agree regarding our youth opportunities. What frustrates me is our general recruitment plan is to bring in players from other leagues and they are given a season if not 2 to bed in.

    What not give some of the young players 5 games to at least see if they improve and can cope.

    Regarding our defence we seem to bring in too many central defenders from outside the EPL and it would be wiser to look at the league now and see who has done well and buy. That’s what Liverpool have done and Man u in the past.

  3. Victor Thompson January 7, 2019 at 12:14 pm #

    I like a lot of what you say. Nelson is the outstanding youngster for me, who should have got a run in the team.

    Thank you for your mention of Dave Seager and his family. His wife Joanne`s post on facebook has such dignity and courage in it. Truly impressive lady.

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