Joe Willock put in another impressive performance against Bayern Munich on Thursday, and he’s earned praise from his coaches and teammates for his recent progress.
It’s fair to say that a year and a half ago, Willock’s situation was very different.
Despite getting a number of chances under Arsene Wenger, the midfielder just seemed to be lacking something. His performance in a first-game against Newcastle in April 2018 saw a number of fans turn on him, writing off his chances at Arsenal.
Rather than letting his head drop, Willock pushed on and made huge strides in 2018/19. The 19-year-old was by far one of Arsenal’s best players for the u23s and he added three goals in six games for the first team as well.
Now, Willock is impressing against the likes of Bayern Munich in pre-season, and making a strong case for his inclusion in the first team when the season gets underway. Unai Emery is very pleased with the teenager’s progress.
“It’s all progress with him because last year he started with us in the pre-season. His performance today is very different to last year, maybe because he knows our idea and spirit better,” Emery told Arsenal.com.
“He’s got a very big motivation and a very big ambition individually to make good performances, and he listens a lot to our idea. We are speaking a lot to him individually, with Carcedo, with me.
“I really, really think that he made one more step last year during the season and he finished it very well with us, playing 12 minutes in the final against Chelsea with a big performance. We now want him to take another step more in his capacity to be with us, with a big help in our performance and our idea.”
Emery isn’t the only person at the club who thinks Willock is on the right track now. Mesut Özil also spoke to the club website to sing the youngster’s praises.
“He knows what he can do, so he is not arrogant on the pitch but he is, how can we say, he believes in himself,” Özil said. “Especially yesterday against Bayern Munich, against a big club, he shows his quality. We are happy to have him.
“He was strong last year as well so, of course, if you really work with the first team together always, you feel more comfortable and you believe in yourself more. I think this season he can show his quality and I think he can help us this season.”
“If he [Willock] stays healthy and believes in himself, I think he will be a big player.”