This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.
All the signs point towards the youngster finally making a breakthrough and getting more minutes at the Emirates. So, what’s his story and what can we expect from one of the latest products of the Arsenal academy?
Willock has actually been flirting with a role in the first-team for a few years now, having played in pre-season two years ago under Arsene Wenger, and enjoying a few cup and Europa League appearances since.
With that, Willock struggled to make an instant impact, putting in good, but not sparkling, performances.
The next season saw the midfielder enjoy plenty of action and goals to accompany it as his performances in Premier League 2 yielded 12 appearances with him hitting the back of the net six times.
He then brought this form to the Arsenal first-team for one game in particular, a 3-0 win at Blackpool in the FA Cup, where he scored two goals.
That was to be the young midfielder’s only appearances for the first-team before being brought on in the Europa League final, where despite Arsenal’s dreadful performance against Chelsea, he raised the Gunners’ performance and almost scored a goal himself.
The amount of pre-season game-time would suggest that Willock is primed for a place in the first-team and will be used regularly when Emery sees fit to do so.
Ozil has looked like his old self and Emery may opt to build his side around the German, but the English youngster can expect a lot more game-time for the Gunners’ first-team than he enjoyed last year.
With Arsenal in the Europa League, after the agony of missing out on Champions League qualification, the north Londoners may well find themselves an opportunity to blood more youngsters, give fringe squad players a chance to find form, test new tactics and formations and give the first-team a rest.
If he’s not starting in the league, then don’t be surprised to see Willock play a key role in Arsenal’s European campaign.
First-team appearances could come in the form of substitute appearances, whilst there might be starts in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup and rotation call-ups as the calendar hits December and January.
Willock should certainly expect to play a big part in Arsenal’s upcoming campaign, acting as a similar-level replacement when one of the starting midfielders of Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Dani Ceballos are unavailable.
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As long as Willock is in contention for the first-team, making appearances off the bench and starting in cup competitions, the midfielder will have had a breakthrough season. He’s a rare midfielder in that he loves both the attacking and defensive side of the game and has played in both roles for his club.
He may be seen as a long-term replacement for Aaron Ramsey, but with Dani Ceballos in for a year, Willock can ease his way into the XI and enjoy his exposure to the first team as he learns from seriously talented players around him.
The target for him should be to become the player Emery is more than comfortable enough to call upon when needed, not the man who starts week-in week-out.
It would be a tremendous achievement if he became a first-team regular, but just being in the manager’s plans is more than good enough.
Willock should target…
Appearances = 20
Starts = 15