Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah both joined up with the first-team squad travelling to Valencia on Wednesday, as they continue to work their way into Unai Emery’s plans.
Nketiah and Willock aren’t new names around the Arsenal first-team, as they both made a number of appearances last season, but the pair have continued their development in the current campaign.
Willock, in particular, is levels above where he was at this point last year, especially in front of goal. The midfield has gone from scoring just once in 2017/18 to bagging 12 goals in 2018/19, and that’s no accident. His movement has been excellent this season, as you can see by focusing on the late runs he makes to score his goals:
Further to my tweet yesterday, here’s a quick comp of Joe Willock scoring with late runs into the box for the u23s this season.
Look where he starts most of these moves, he really anticipates the opportunities well. 12 goals overall this season.pic.twitter.com/4gaN6GQZOH
— Dan Critchlow (@afcDW) April 12, 2019
Nketiah has had a bit of a frustrating campaign in terms of game time, as he’s regularly joined the senior squad for matches before being left on the bench, which has also meant he’s started fewer than half of the u23 matches. Nonetheless, he has 10 goals and four assists in 11 academy appearances, and he just needs more senior chances.
Despite travelling to Valencia, it’s very unlikely either player will start (or even feature) in such an important game. Nonetheless, it’s great to see Willock starting to make the squad more regularly, and Nketiah coming off the bench a bit more often. They’ve earned it, and hopefully, the trip is a great experience for them both.