Arsenal and Newcastle are close to another loan move for Joe Willock, per The Telegraph. Willock spent the second half of last season on loan with the Magpies, scoring 8 goals, including in seven consecutive matches to close out the season, and was one of the main reasons the club avoided relegation.
Said Mikel Arteta when asked about Willock after yesterday’s friendly against Hibernian, “he trained yesterday really well but we didn’t want to risk him. Joe is part of our plans, he’s our player and in the time that he is here we will try to make the most out of him.” As a general rule, reading into manager comments is dicey, especially when they’re not speaking in their native language. But. That bit about “in the time that he is here” suggests that there will be a time where he is not here, i.e. on loan.
It’s a little tough to see where Willock might fit in Mikel Arteta’s preferred 4-1-4-1, which is perhaps why he’s headed out on loan again.
Personally, I think Arsenal could do with a player like him because he does something the Gunners’ midfielders don’t do — score goals. Arsenal got a grand total of two (2) goals from central midfielders last season, Willock scored eight (8) in half a season. The side is desperately light on guys who make runs into the box, hence the lack of goals from center mids last year, and Willock’s specialty is those late-arriving runs to tuck away cut-back crosses. Is it starting to make sense why I think he might be useful for the Gunners? He even got a handful of those goals as a substitute. Are you really telling me there isn’t a place for a guy who can score off the bench?
But if Arteta isn’t going to find a spot and playing time for Willock, a loan is a better option than riding the pine at the Emirates.
The Gunners are in a tough spot with Willock. His value is high right now, but clubs aren’t exactly flush with cash and kicking down the door with mind-blowing offers (unless you’re Arsenal pursuing Ben White, but I digress). Willock’s value could go higher or he could have a pedestrian season that cools the hype. He’s only 21, so he’s probably got a bit of developing still left to do.
The $64,000 question is whether he’s part of Arsenal’s long term plans. I don’t know the answer, and I’m not sure whether he should be, either. We often get over-attached to “our” guys and develop a kind of FOMO on them becoming good players. But they could go the other way too and completely fizzle out.
Clubs sell good players all the time. If they get appropriate value in return that they reinvest effectively, it’s fine. It’s an opportunity-cost, time-value of money thing. Be honest with yourself — did either of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Alex Iwobi become the player you thought they would be when you were highest on them? Absolutely not. I think Arsenal did quite well selling both guys when they did to strengthen elsewhere.
I think I’ve talked myself into believing that’s the best course for Arsenal and Joe Willock, too. Unfortunately, it looks like all we’re getting right now is another loan.