Arsenal youngster on dealing with 'sharks' in the dressing room

Arsenal's Joe Willock gives a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Europa league football match between Arsenal and Standard Liege, on December 11, 2019 in Liege. (Photo by JOHAN EYCKENS / Belga / AFP)
Arsenal's Joe Willock gives a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Europa league football match between Arsenal and Standard Liege, on December 11, 2019 in Liege. (Photo by JOHAN EYCKENS / Belga / AFP)

Joe Willock has been speaking to Arsenal.com about the jump up from Academy football to the senior squad.

Arsenal's English midfielder Joe Willock arrives at Arsenal's Colney training centre north of London on May 20, 2020 as training continues for Premier League clubs with a June re-start the intention during the COVID-19 pandemic. - Teams have started socially-distanced training in small groups this week, but several Premier League stars have expressed concerns about plans to resume the season. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)
Arsenal’s English midfielder Joe Willock arrives at Arsenal’s Colney training centre north of London (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

Willock is a player who doesn’t quite grab the same number of headlines as the likes of Eddie Nketiah or Bukayo Saka but his progress has been steady and impressive.

This season, he has totalled an impressive 21 Premier League appearances and 34 across all competitions. To say he’s an established member of the first team squad now would be to state the obvious.

So how did the 20-year-old handle his dream finally coming true?

“Personally for me, I feel the jump is 80 per cent mental and 20 per cent about the physical and different attributes,” Willock told Arsenal.com.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bR3tovuUSc

“I feel when you make the jump you go from being a senior player in the academy to being a person who is just a little boy, a little fish in a massive sea and you have to float.

“There’s big sharks you have to deal with, that have been playing there for years, with massive experience, so in your head you have to come to grips with dealing with that as soon as possible to survive.

“For me, as a young boy growing up in the academy, a local boy, to go to Hale End and the Arsenal youth training centre, it is a dream come true,” he added.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: Joe Willock of Arsenal battles for possession with Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dave Thompson/ Pool via Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – JUNE 17: Joe Willock of Arsenal battles for possession with Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on June 17, 2020 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dave Thompson/ Pool via Getty Images)

“Finally making it into the first team and playing games, I always wished and dreamt of it but I never thought 100 per cent it would come true. Now it has, I really have to thank God and my family for nurturing me into the first team and on such a journey.”

Although he only got two minutes in the clusterf**k that was Arsenal’s trip to the seaside to face Brighton, Mikel Arteta trusted the youngster to start against City which speaks volumes.

Will he start against Southampton on Thursday in our 6pm kick-off in yet another away game (Arsenal’s first four games of the Premier League restart are all away from home)?

Check out our predicted starting XI to see what we think.