Joe Willock is one of the Premier League’s top midfield dribblers, according to the statistics for this season so far.
WhoScored tweeted earlier this week that Joe Willock is in the top-three dribblers in the Premier League this season. Only Mateo Kovacic and Tanguy Ndombele complete more successful dribbles per 90, of players to make 15 appearances or more.
Kovacic is top with 3.7 per 90, with Ndombele on 3.6 and Willock on 2.6. Willock’s dribble success rate is 74% in the Premier League, and 75% in the Europa League, so it’s not just a case of repeatedly trying them until one finally comes off.
There’s still a bit of a gap to the top two, but plenty of time for the 20-year-old to build on that aspect of his game. After all, the other two are six years and three years older than him.
Personally, I think this just further makes the case that Willock should play deeper in midfield. It’s a waste starting him at 10, just as it would be with Kovacic or Ndombele.
If your strength is progressing the ball past players pressing you, there’s no point starting in the final third. By that point, you’ve already beaten the press and your final ball is much more valuable. That’s where you want your Mesut Özil or similar.
Willock made himself a good goalscorer in the 2018/19 season, but he did so with well-timed late runs into the box. Aaron Ramsey spent most of his Arsenal career proving you can score those goals without starting in an advanced role.
That’s not to say I don’t understand why Emery, Ljungberg and Arteta all used Willock further forwards. He’s a hard worker, he presses the opposition defence, and that’s valuable too. I just think he’ll reach his potential as an individual in a slightly deeper role.