Having officially turned professional in February of this year, Chris Willock is a talented youngster patiently hoping for his chance to progress through the ranks at Arsenal.
At the age of 17, he’s already become a firm member of the under-21’s side, but rarely plays a full fixture in the Barclays u21 Premier League. This, isn’t a measure of his quality – or lack of it. On the contrary, it just highlights the depth and level of talent within the youth ranks at the club.
The likes of Serge Gnabry, Alex Iwobi and Ainsley-Maitland Niles have all forced themselves onto the professional scene at some stage or another over the past year or two. Although none of the attacking trio currently play their trade in the first-team, two of the aforementioned are on respective loan spells elsewhere in England, whilst Iwobi continues his development among the wealth of promising stars in the u21s.
There is no reason as to why Chris cannot establish himself as one of these players. Still a teenager, he’s got plenty of development left in his youthful body and coming from a footballing background where both his siblings currently play academy football (Joe at Arsenal, Matthew at Manchester United), it’s a good omen for what is in store.
Having already been linked with a switch to Spain, with La Liga giants Barcelona reportedly interested in recruiting the teen for their critically-acclaimed La Masia academy, the sky is the limit for him.
Willock also boasts versatility, which is required for many top professionals in the current game today. Predominantly a left winger, he can also play centrally or just behind the striker as the number ten and has a few international caps under his belt already in the u16 and u17 age categories.
Having burst onto the scene by becoming only the third Arsenal player to feature in a first-team friendly at the age of 16 last summer against Boreham Wood, Arsène was understandably impressed by his display of maturity and tactical awareness too.
This past summer, he was also selected for the club’s pre-season tour of Asia, which highlights just how highly rated he is by the club.
A skillful player by trade, Willock loves dribbling at opposition defenders and taking them on, one-on-one down the flank. His flicks and tricks are easy-on-the-eye and often come off successfully, which means there is hardly any surprise in seeing him marauding forward on the counter attack.
In Arsenal’s opening group stage match of this year’s UEFA Youth League, Willock was instrumental during their 2-0 away victory over Dinamo Zagreb. Finishing excellently with confidence and composure to break the deadlock, the exciting teenager also won the penalty for Ben Sheaf to double their lead.
Willock will be hoping to enjoy the same success that Jeff Reine-Adelaide has savoured over this summer, having wowed with his two impressive displays in the Emirates Cup. At the same age as Willock, the talented Frenchman still plays u21 football, but has been listed as a first-team player and regularly trains with the squad too.
There’s no doubting Willock’s ability, and the UEFA Youth League is a perfect ticket for him to thrive with plenty watching on in awe.