Having started off his managerial career at Arsenal with a 1-1 draw against Bournemouth last month, Mikel Arteta made a quick return to play the Cherries on Monday night.
The Gunners saw off Eddie Howe’s side 2-1 in the FA Cup fourth round, and booked a tie against Portsmouth away from home next up. And whilst the likes of Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah stole the show with their respective goals, Joe Willock also enjoyed a fine game in the middle of the park.
The 20-year-old played in the attacking midfield role, and whilst he didn’t contribute a goal or assist, his work off the ball was crucial to the Gunners’ success.
As per Sofascore, he made two tackles and two interceptions, and also won five total duels too. Add that to the fact he completed two of his three attempted dribbles, and it was an impressive all-round performance.
And after seeing his powerhouse display, Arsenal fans took to Twitter to voice their thoughts on the academy product.
He starts over Ozil all day for me
— Aaron (@at_rod) January 28, 2020
I have been saying that since i saw him in his firsts 2 matches. Its like having fabregas and bergkamp skills in just 1 player.
— Alex50hz (@Alexchef16) January 27, 2020
Some fans hearkened back to former star Aaron Ramsey, suggesting that Willock could be their in-house replacement for the now Juventus man.
Agreed. We wanted an Aaron Ramsey replacement and we’ve got one right at home. Hope Willock gets more game time. Definitley can be one of our star players under Arteta.
— WorldwideArsenal™ (@WorldwideAFC) January 27, 2020
Willock can be what we wanted Aaron Ramsey to be.
— “Pra-Deep” (@GoGoonerGone) January 27, 2020
The closest thing we have to Aaron Ramsey ….people just don’t open their eyes until it’s too late…classic example is with Xhaka
— Kinya-Y (@MrMk_Kinyanjui) January 27, 2020
A couple of supporters of the north London side drew comparisons with former Manchester City and Barcelona star Yaya Toure.
Nowhere as physical as the Ivorian but there are shades of peak Yaya in Joe. Fingers crossed his development at Arsenal continues.
— Anand Dörairaj (@stonedwasherman) January 28, 2020
Reminds me of yaya toure
— Malachi peart (@MalachiPeart) January 27, 2020
One fan in particular meanwhile, insisted that fans need to get behind the club’s young players, and that they would be keen to see them “blossom”.
Willock is an incredible talent. Fans need to get behind our young players to give them the confidence to truly express themselves. Rather see a homegrown talent blossom than shell out £mm on “potential” superstars
— Nik Mediratta (@medman39) January 28, 2020
Having looked like being the major casualty of Emery’s exit, Willock took his opportunity to shine under Arteta with both hands.
The English prospect may not have completed the full 90 minutes against Bournemouth, but he certainly impressed his new boss, with Arteta name-checking him after the match as one of the youngsters who were “terrific“. That will do Willock the world of good in terms of his confidence, and his ability to press from the front in that number ten position makes him an intriguing alternative to someone like Mesut Ozil.
Arteta opened the door for Willock on Monday night, and the 20-year-old strode through with a purpose.