No room for sentiment, no room for Willock: Arsenal should sell Joe (for his sake and theirs)


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!


See ya!

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8 Responses to No room for sentiment, no room for Willock: Arsenal should sell Joe (for his sake and theirs)

  1. Ken May 26, 2021 at 8:59 am #

    We should sell our only midfielder that can score just like we sold our best goalkeeper to finance other players that cannot deliver. This is modern finance and football.
    We take the money to rebuild like we did last year and end at the eighth place and out of European football for the first time since 35 years. We sell a player that has adapted to the EPL to buy one that could possibly adapt in 2023.
    Are you someone who write sh** for your living or you genuinely believe on our farcical manager’s philosophy.
    Anyway in both cases you are at a lost.

    • ClockEnd Italia June 11, 2021 at 1:32 pm #

      *25 years, Ken. Thanks for the feedback, although I obvioulsly disagree with you

  2. Daryl Tinworth May 26, 2021 at 9:55 am #

    Totally agree. Willock’s game vs Fulham last weekend a case in point. Terrific driving goal from transition from defence. Later in the game, he plays a pass across the face of goal just outside the pen area, straight to the opposition, and if Fulham could hit a barn door they would have equalised. It would be annoying if he went to west ham, same for Nketiah, but hopefully he gets a move that suits him.

    Nice article, enjoyed reading it

  3. Daveo May 26, 2021 at 10:05 am #

    Good article and I think you’re bang on. I’m a massive Willock fan, but I see no way he can succeed in Arteta’s system in which there is less creative freedom than Mao Zedong allowed. It makes sense to sell and invest in a player that suits the system – Odegaard or Buendia, as it’s pretty clear Arteta isn’t going anywhere. I’ll be sad to see Joe leave as I’ve always been a fan, but this is the route we chose. No point keeping him around as a bit part player and crushing his transfer value – unless Arteta has an epiphany suddenly turns into Jurgen Klopp (which I don’t see happening – he’s too obsessed with Pep’s system without the players and budget to back it up, which that system needs).

    • ClockEnd Italia June 11, 2021 at 1:33 pm #

      Thanks Daveo, selling Willock is not a choice I would make with a light heart but it seems to be the most sensible one

  4. Lari03 June 1, 2021 at 10:30 am #

    I really don’t understand the Arteta hype.

    If you have a team with less creative freedom, you get a team that doesn’t perform when the ovation is loudest because you are stifled by default, and such a team ends up like Man city in the champions league-clueless.

    Messi was the unexplainable, unstoppable force of unpredictability that led Guardiola to his last champions league trophy. Absent of Messi, he has not won the champions league. And he managed Bayern Munich. He had the best resources in Germany but he lacked a talisman that could wreak havoc when it mattered the most.

    You need a blend of creative through passes, explosive runs and successful dribbles to excel at the top level of the game, given that one scores goals regularly from midfield.

    Barcelona bought Dembele for this exact reason to replace Neymar’s loss. They gambled on Countinho because they needed goals from the middle.

    The ideal scenario is to have a multi-talented midfield fit for purpose and different game states. Are you really promoting a situation where we only buy midfielders that can fill a certain mould when the best of Wenger’s teams worked when we had several midfielders of high technical quality?

    Joe is a box-to-box midfielder cum assisting striker. We need a player of that nature. End of story.

    I mean, we have the opportunity to prepare for bigger plans in the next 2 seasons and you feel we should sell our Ramsey-lite midfielder because of a few millions?

    Guendouzi with all the hype and immaturity lacks end product in the final third and Marseille is in for him. Why should Arsenal stab itself in the foot by selling a young player who can be trained to maximize his strengths?

    I would sell Lacazette & Nketiah before mentioning Joe Willock.

    • ClockEnd Italia June 11, 2021 at 1:37 pm #

      Thanks Lari, I agree on Laca and Nketiah, we should be moving them on. I’m not fully convinced by Arteta either but, if we manage to carry the post-Christmas form into next season, we might be proved wrong.
      About Guardiola, I don’t think it’s fair to link his successes to Messi, his teams are always great and he changed so many systems that it’s be disrespectful to claim his football is simply “give the ball to Messi and watch”

      We need creativity, badly, and I would invest in as many creative, highliy-gifted midfielders as possible. Willock doesn’t offer any of that, he has other qualities

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