Arsenal are reportedly set to keep Joe Willock despite Newcastle’s keenness to keep him themselves but the player’s future is far from certain.

Joe Willock of Newcastle United celebrates with Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce after scoring in added time to level the score at 1-1 ActionPlus David Blunsden
Joe Willock of Newcastle United celebrates with Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce after scoring in added time to level the score at 1-1 ActionPlus David Blunsden

Joe Willock returned to pre-season training with Arsenal but had not had a discussion with the club about his future. That was the gossip last week. Now, it is being claimed that Arsenal will keep the midfielder but he will have to prove himself during pre-season.

The 21-year-old had an absolute blast with Newcastle last season, so much so that he wouldn’t mind a move there permanently. You can’t blame him. He was shown faith by the manager and promptly rewarded Steve Bruce on the pitch.

Willock has even been messaging Allan Saint-Maximin that he misses him:

Joe Willock on Instagram
Joe Willock on Instagram

Newcastle have made no secret of their desire to take Willock north for longer than half a season while Arsenal, well, they haven’t really done much until now.

Like so many others who were already at the club, you get the feeling that Mikel Arteta isn’t really that fussed on keeping Joe Willock and, with the season just a month away, reports from Newcastle that Willock hadn’t even had a chance to talk with Arsenal were not really surprising.

Of course, we have to factor in Willock being on holiday. Still, his representatives presumably weren’t.

Last season, Willock didn’t get his first Arsenal minutes in the league until near the end of November, his first and only league 90 minutes coming seven days later. In total, after those first two games, Mikel Arteta played Willock for just 88 minutes in the league.

Contrast that with the season before under Unai Emery, before he was sacked. Willock started the first three league matches of the season and played in 10 of Emery’s 13 games in 19/20. After that, Freddie Ljungberg started Willock in his first two games in charge, used him in four of his five in the league, and played him for the full 90 in the Europa League.

Even after Arteta first arrived, he used Willock in all but one of his league games, although he started him only twice out of 11.

Whatever Arteta saw of Willock, he clearly wasn’t that impressed with it last season at Arsenal. Perhaps it’s nothing personal and Newcastle’s way of playing suited Willock better. Perhaps Arsenal could have done with a midfielder who scored more in six months at St James’ Park than the whole Arsenal midfield combined managed all season.

Who knows. Hopefully we will actually get to find out in the new campaign and we don’t just keep him to let him waste away on the bench.

What it seems like at the minute, however, is that Arsenal are biding their time to see who they can land in the transfer window before making their final final call on Willock.

This one seems likely to go late in to the window before we get a definitive decision one way or the other, despite these recent claims that Arteta has been impressed by what he has seen from Willock since he returned for pre-season.

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.