Why Arsenal have struck gold with a new long-term deal for Joe Willock
According to Sky Sports, Arsenal have secured the long-term future of midfielder Joe Willock with a new contract, with the 20-year-old academy graduate putting pen to paper on fresh terms at his boyhood club.
A product of Arsenal’s youth system, Willock was handed his first-team debut by former manager Arsene Wenger back in the 2017-18 season but he has really come of age this term after playing a bit-part role under Unai Emery in the previous campaign.
The 20-year-old started each of the Gunners’ first three Premier League games this season against Newcastle United, Burnley and Liverpool before sitting out for the North London Derby at home against bitter rivals Spurs.
Unai Emery has placed a lot of emphasis on the development of the academy starlets at the club ever since his arrival in North London last summer, with the manager making it clear that he is happy to put his trust in youngsters if they are, indeed, good enough to do the job at the highest level.
While the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Willock and Eddie Nketiah all got their chances to impress in the previous campaign, the Spaniard has gone one step better this term by successfully accommodating Reiss Nelson and Willock as a part of his plans moving forward in the Premier League.
And Willock, in particular, has really made eyeballs turn with his rich vein of form in the Premier League.
The 20-year-old has impressed with his work-rate, stamina, determination, tenacity, ability to win possession back and carry the ball forward with intent, while also setting high standards in terms of passing ability with a pass completion rate of 84.6 thus far this term.
Willock’s uncompromised work-rate, technical abilities to retain possession and picking out the right pass to build up attacks, make him a perfect fit for Emery’s pressing philosophy at the Emirates.
With Granit Xhaka looking pretty mediocre in the opening stages of the campaign, the fans can certainly look forward to a young and energetic central midfield consisting of Willock, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi moving forward.
Not quite the finished article just yet, the England U-20 international is still in the developmental phase of his career but Willock has already laid down a marker early in his career that he might go on to have a big future at the Emirates in the years to come.
Despite having spent a fortune this summer in the transfer window, Arsenal need their academy stars to make a key contribution in the Premier League this term to preserve hopes of a top-four finish, which would mark a return to the Champions League for the Gunners after an absence of three years.
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All in all, Arsenal’s decision to tie Joe Willock down to a new long-term deal is a clear sign of the club’s renewed faith in their academy products.