Seven consecutive games with his name on the scoresheet, that’s quite an achievement for Joe Willock.
If there’s one ideal example of a perfect loan deal, it has to be Joe Willock’s stint at St. James’s Park.
…and that is why we should be selling him.
When he left for Newcastle, Joe Willock was a peripheral figure in Mikel Arteta’s plan, at least since he switched to the 4-2-3-1 formation we’re seeing nowadays.
There is no place for a player like Joe Willock in this system, because there is no room for a box-to-box, old-school number eight like him.
The system is built to have a double pivot at the base of midfield and a modern attacking midfielder at the top, a player able to knit the play, dictate the tempo, secure in possession and at ease in tight spaces.
Joe Willock isn’t defensively reliable enough and doesn’t possess the necessary passing abilities to play in a deeper position, nor has the touch and skills to be a number ten; he needs space, ne needs freedom to drive forward with the ball and do his thing, which is pretty unique compared to what our midfielders can and cannot do, but still unit for the football that Mikel Arteta thinks we should play.
For a team unable to score from midfield, we shouldn’t really consider selling the most in-form one, yet that would be the sensible thing to do because we won’t have a better opportunity to maximize our investment; as cold-hearted and cynical it might sound, this is what we should be aiming for, as a Club, because we all know that only a handful of the youth players coming through the ranks make it to the first team and the others will be moved on.
If we can move them on and get a nice sum in return, then it would be the sign of a well-run Club and possibly a sign that we are learning from our mistakes.
In Joe Willock we have a player that would thrive in a formation that allows central midfielders to charge forward in transition, breaking away at pace through the middle, and this is why Unai Emery put so much faith in him; in Mikel Arteta’s possession-based football, his qualities would be diluted and his weaknesses exposed, a recipe for disaster.
It sounds counterintuitive to let go of the one player that might fix our goal-scoring issues but I’m pretty sure Joe Willock would not be able (or allowed to) repeat his exploits under Mikel Arteta, so his future seems to be away from the Club.
Unless our priority is to buy a central midfielder with a profile similar to Willock’s, which I believe it is not, we should be selling Joe Willock and reinvest the money we get from him into a quality player that would fit Mikel Arteta’s philosophy as well as elevating the overall quality of the squad.
Easy on paper, not so easy in real life.
If we have a plan in mind about how the team should be looking next season, and I really pray we do have one, we surely have some names written down, so getting fresh money from the sale of a player we don’t need is a good thing.
What we should not be doing is getting rid of Joe Willock in the way we got rid of Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczesny, Kieran Gibbs, Fran Mérida, Chuba Akpom or Nicklas Bendtner, players that we nurtured, developed and lost for very little money.
If we don’t find a Club ready to offer serious money, then we should be loaning out Joe Willock again and let him show his talent, until a Club decides to invest big on him, eventually.
It’s always quite hard to cut the cord but we hang on for too long in the past, to the point when the players were blatantly out of the technical project and their value took a dip, leaving us with no choice but to release them.
We knew some of them would never reach the top; we knew others could not be relied upon because of their injuries; we knew we should have let them go but we didn’t and everyone lost: players were unhappy, the Club didn’t recoup a fraction of the money they invested in their development.
We should avoid repeating the same mistake with Joe Willock (and Eddie Nketiah, and Reiss Nelson…) and take the hard path, the one we took with Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, none of whose sale has proven to be a terrible mistake.
There will be the one “we should not have let go”, eventually, and perhaps it will be Joe Willock, but we cannot hang on players we don’t value just because they grew up at Hale End.
Mikel Arteta doesn’t rate Joe Willock and the system makes him redundant, so all we should be doing is taking advantage of his stellar record with Newcastle and selling him to the highest bidder.
We take some very much needed money to rebuild, Joe Willock goes on to have the career he deserves and express himself for the player he truly is.
..and they lived happily ever after!
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.