Arsenal’s Joe Willock had an impressive summer with Arsenal. After putting up some notable displays during Arsenal’s preseason, Willock has featured in Arsenal’s first three Premier League fixtures. Interesting enough, in each start this season Unai Emery has employed Joe Willock in three different positions. Willock has emphatically answered the call, and has even brought into question Mesut Ozil’s place in the starting eleven long term. Willock’s improved skill set and talent should afford him a call up to the English National Team for the upcoming international break.
Joe Willock has already surpassed his total number of Premier League appearances during the 2018/19 season. He appeared on the bench for five occasions with one start against Burnley on the last day of the season. Unai Emery has since gone on to show incredible support for Joe Willock after he has proven himself as a player who encapsulates the style of play Emery impresses on his squad. He is quick, tactically vigilant, and committed to the high press.
Following Arsenal’s recent loss to Liverpool over the weekend, Unai Emery went out of his way to praise Joe Willock’s impact on the squad,
“…Some players today made one step ahead like Willock, and I also think it was a good match for Pepe and Matteo.”
Willock’s willingness and ability to cover multiple areas of the pitch resembles that of Aaron Ramsey during his time with the Gunners. Ramsey was known for his ability to influence the attack with runs behind the defense, but he could also play out wide and as a stationary midfielder. Willock has thus far played as an attacking midfielder, a box-to-box central midfielder, and as a left midfielder in a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Sure he may not excel in every position he is put in, but his willingness to influence the match any way he can must not go unnoticed.
The 20 year old Englishman has completed 82% of his passes this season, 8 accurate long balls, and 9 tackles in his first three matches. With both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil out of favor with Unai Emery, Willock has cemented his place in the starting eleven. He looked little out of his comfort level during some portions of the Liverpool match, but considering Unai Emery has not really utilized the 4-4-2 diamond with Arsenal he did especially well with his excellent run forward past Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Joe Willock has done enough in these past three games to prove that he deserves a spot on the England’s National Team roster for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers. Willock, however, will have to contend with other youngsters like Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham of Chelsea and James Maddison of Leicester City for a spot on the England team, but he needs to be on Gareth Southgate’s shortlist. Fortunately for Southgate, this dilemma is exactly what he was hoping for back in December of 2018. The England Nation Team manager questioned the lack of English players starting in Premier League,
“Nobody can tell me that if [English] players are good enough, they will come through. That is not true. There are plenty of players who are good enough.”
Players like Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Joe Willock, and Mason Mount have made considerable impressions with their top six sides. England’s Euro Qualifying matches against Bulgaria and Kosovo are the perfect opportunity to provide concrete acknowledgement of their contributions for their clubs.
Unfortunately, it would not be surprising to see Willock’s name absent from the call up sheet when Southgate announces his squad this Thursday. Joe Willock has made an notable case for his inclusion, and considering where he was six months ago that is an impressive feat. Willock is a talented player who will inevitably get that coveted call up to represent his country. Most likely it will come sooner rather than later, but the best thing for him to do is to remain committed to perfecting his craft and developing into the player Emery and his fellow teammates believe he can become.