Arsenal midfielder Joe Willock will spend the rest of the season on loan at Newcastle. Willock has made a handful of appearances for the Gunners this season and should get more playing time for the Magpies. Like Ainsley Maitland-Niles, featuring more regularly for a Premier League club will help his development. But at 21-years old (compared to AMN, who is 23), Willock may have more room to grow and develop as footballer.
Newcastle could prove a good fit for Willock’s skill set. Steve Bruce’s side has pretty good attacking talent in Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron, and Allan Saint-Maximin (who is still getting back up to speed after battling COVID). They play a relatively direct style, like to hit on the break, and attack from wide spaces. But they have lacked connection between the lines at times.
That’s where Willock will come in handy. Though not an elite ball progressor like Thomas Partey, he is willing to carry the ball up the pitch. More importantly for Newcastle’s style, Willock’s movement, particularly his runs into the final third and box will provide an outlet for their wide dribblers after they beat a defender. The $64,000 question will be whether Willock can quickly develop an understanding with Wilson, who is a solid finisher. If they do, Newcastle should see their 21 goals for, which ranks in the bottom quarter of the league, increase markedly.
I spoke briefly with our friends over at Coming Home Newcastle, who observed that while the club do have a bit of a logjam in midfield, Willock shouldn’t have much trouble beating out either of the Longstaff brothers for playing time. I’d also guess that Arsenal wouldn’t send Willock out on loan without some assurances that he’ll get playing time. Why make the move just to swap one bench for another? But as we saw with Eddie Nketiah and Leeds last year, “assurances” don’t necessarily mean much.
Oddly enough, Willock had the most appearances of any Arsenal player last season, which I think is more of a quirky, coincidental stat than anything else. It’s probably not often that a player with the most appearances for a club heads out on loan the next season. shrug
Circling back to Ainsley Maitland-Niles for a second, I think he and Willock are in somewhat similar positions, two-year age difference notwithstanding. Whether they have enough quality to succeed at Arsenal is up for debate, and the loans could reveal the answer to that particular question. I think Willock is the likelier of the pair to have a future in North London, if only because he’s closer to “developing young talent” as opposed to “he is who he’s going to be,” so I guess the age part does matter at least a little.
With this Willock loan, it looks as if Arsenal are done their business for the window unless something comes completely out of left field at the eleventh hour. The Gunners were looking for a loan move for Reiss Nelson, but nothing panned out, which isn’t great.
Some housekeeping from the youth ranks:
- Midfielder Matt Smith, who had been recalled from his Swindon loan, was loaned to Charlton in League One.
- Defender Zech Medley is headed to Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League. He’s out of contract in the summer but Arsenal reportedly have an option to extend that they are expected to exercise.
- Defender Joseph Olowu, who is out of contract after this season, is headed to National League South side Wealdstone. His time at Arsenal is likely finished.