Arsenal crashed to another defeat against Leicester City on Sunday as their midfield was overrun defensively and toothless in possession, so why is Joe Willock still being ignored?
For the u23s, Willock has never had a better campaign. He’s been a leader in the team, controlling matches in possession and working as hard as anyone else to win the ball back whenever Arsenal lose it. He’s also scored goals consistently with intelligent late runs and much-improved finishing.
That doesn’t always translate to first-team football, but it has so far this season. The 19-year-old has three goals in three starts for Arsenal in the Europa League and FA Cup. He also scored three goals in two matches against senior lower-league opposition in the EFL Trophy. Yet he’s only been given a total of two league minutes in the entire season.
Mesut Özil is out injured, Aaron Ramsey is out injured, Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Mohamed Elneny have a combined seven season goals between them, so why is Arsenal’s academy midfielder still not getting even 15 minutes of game time?
Arsenal are losing match after match and the best Willock can hope for is to sit on the bench and watch. That’s if he’s lucky, as he’s only made the Premier League squad five times this season.
If things were going well, or there were obvious alternatives, you could understand Emery being hesitant to bring Willock in. That’s not the case. Nor is it the case that the head coach has opted for far more experienced alternatives, as he’s given young Premier League newcomer Matteo Guendouzi all the game time he could want this season.
Arsenal’s season is falling apart and their impressive academy remains incredibly underutilised.