Wenger shows faith in Chris Willock with first-team recognition


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Arsenal Media

There was an element of Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City last night that went rather unnoticed.

Whilst the club’s supporters celebrated an impressive win, one individual inside Emirates Stadium had an additional reason to be particularly satisfied.

Ordinarily Chris Willock would have featured for Arsenal U21 side against their Aston Villa counterparts yesterday afternoon, but instead he was selected to travel with Arsene Wenger’s squad to the stadium ahead of the game against City.

Willock didn’t make the bench for the fixture, but he was the designated 19th player, and would have been drafted in had there been a late withdrawal.

It was a small, yet rather significant step in the career of a player who has been earmarked for greatness from a very young age.

Succeeding in the long-term at Arsenal will be a very difficult task, even for a player of Willock’s undoubted quality, but the left winger has already, at the age of 17, made some significant strides in his development.

The England youth international featured for the Arsenal first-team in a friendly just weeks after signing scholarship terms and this season has performed tremendously for the club at U21 level, impressing with his ability to retain possession in tight areas.

A sublime dribbler and an astute passer, Willock is also capable of finding the net himself on occasion, as he demonstrated with a fine finish at U21 level against West Ham United last week.

Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who were unused substitutes last night, are currently ahead of him at present in the first-team reckoning, but Willock isn’t far behind.

Wenger recently mentioned the youngster when asked to reveal which youth-team prospects are currently closest to breaking into the senior set-up.

It is a measure of the faith that the club have in Willock that he has seemingly leapfrogged Dan Crowley, a player several months older than him, in the queue for first-team minutes.

Crowley remains an impressive talent but hasn’t really pushed on quite as expected. Willock, all the while, has continued to develop at a tremendous pace and is now much stronger physically than he was previously.

Willock has already sampled first-team life- he featured in the pre-season preparations in Asia- but there is a very real possibility that he could make his competitive debut in the not too distant future.

There is still a very long way for him to go beyond that, with a loan spell probably on the agenda at some point next season, but last night’s events demonstrated that Willock is very close to being rewarded for his efforts.

8 comments

  1. Speaking of Crowley jeorge I was wondering if you think wenger rates him. May be going by who gets to join the first team training sessions and the fact that Crowley wasn’t one of the three players wenger mentioned but just get the impression, given niles, bennacer and zelalem got their opportunity in the coc/cl cup pretty early, he may not be viewed in the same bracket?

    Obviously seems to be immature in his decision making but definitely seems to have exquisite technique.

  2. I wonder if Crowley would be best served looking for a loan abroad rather than to a lower league club. Classy player but lacks the physicality that English clubs value.

  3. Hope willock like reine-adelaide isn’t making his debut this season. Nothing against either but that will mean one thing the injury crisis has got worse. I would say not only are both players behind iwobi. They are also behind gnabry, wellington and maitland-niles.

    As for new faces, I wouldn’t mind seeing Macey reine-adelaide, rosicky, arteta, Debuchy and iwobi.

    That would free up to 5 spaces in the CL squad and 3 more spaces in the PL squad.

    I would welcome the return of Jenkinson for Debuchy. A top class forward to replace reine-adelaide. A world class dm to replace arteta and another top class cm/am to replace rosicky.

    1. Sometimes opprtunities are due to injuries to first players in the right position and physical attributes. Arsenal currently a 4-2-3-1. Dan Crowley is a central midfielder, the more attacking of the 2. In that position, we have Ramsey, Flamini and the ox. Some like Chambers, Gibbs and Debuchy could play there as emergency. Jeff did play there in the Emirates Cup. Iwobi is currently training to play there.
      On the other hand, in the wide of the non-injured currently available we have Campbell, Walcott, the Ox. Ramsey and Gibbs can also a job there. Jeff and Iwobi are used to play there. However because those positions require a lot of intense sprints, players are quite often substituted because of the higher risk of injury. That means that you need more cover.
      It therefore does make sense to use a specialist winger in stand by rather than a central midfield player.
      That does not mean that he is more likely to succeed in the long run. It just mean that today’s need for a cover winger is greater than a midfield player.

      Personally, I would rather we sell Debuchy and recall Jenkinson. Jenkinson can count as an home grown player.
      We can then have an extra player without changing the rest of the lists.
      IMHO, the order is more likely to be Jeff, Gnabry, Iwobi, Maitland-Niles, Wellington. The last one will not make it at Arsenal.

  4. Firstly, a very Merry Christmas to all, Gunners n Gooners!! And a big thank you to Jeorge for the great work this year and long may you continue the same this coming New Year.

    Good luck to Willock on his career development. The lads must be reminded that the path to First Team inclusion takes many ways. Some will follow the straight way, like the one we need not mention now playing in London SW and Wilshere.

    The roundabout way like Coquelin, but you need patience and perseverance to follow this path. Players like Gnabry and Zelalem may fall in this category. Don’t give up on the dream to be a Gunner!

  5. a big question, I guess, is how strong will Wenger go in the FA Cup? We could see the likes of Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide, Bielik, Willock, Pleguezuelo or even Malen involved in some capacity – the first two possibly fighting each other for a start.
    Wouldn’t say JEF is behind Iwobi – both seem level pegging in Wengers thoughts – JEF has had the disadvantage of being in Chile for a month costing him a COC appearance.

  6. ps, hope Ainsley Maitland-Niles gets a squad place next season. Reminds me of Ray Parlour!
    Think he is the sort of player we need behind the first 15 or 16. Versatile, skillful and hardworking. And wouldn’t take a squad place for a few years.

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