Joe Willock was the only player to be sold by Arsenal during the summer transfer window so how has he fared since his £26.5m move to Newcastle United?
I think it’s safe to say that the Newcastle United that Joe Willock now finds himself at is not the one he thought he had joined when he opted to build on his hugely successful loan last season.
Seven goals in seven appearances for Newcastle convinced Steve Bruce to make the 22-year-old his number one summer target and he was eventually able to land his man.
Bruce might have been far from popular at St James’s Park, but the signing of Willock was a popular choice. His champion, however, is now gone from the club and who will be arriving to take his place is, at the time of writing, still no clearer.
Unai Emery was thought to be on his way to St James’s Park which would have been a positive for Willock.
The midfielder played 23 times for Emery at Arsenal, scoring seven goals. Only 10 of those appearances, however, were in the Premier League, but it was under Emery that Willock signed a new long-term contract with Arsenal in 2019.
Emery, however, changed his mind about taking the job, despite being offered a substantial pay increase.
“I mean, obviously it’s been difficult for the team,” Willock told the Newcastle official website this week.
“There’s a lot of things going on in the background, with the new transition we’re making.
“Personally, I’ve found it difficult, really, to play at the level I want to play at. But I feel like we’re sticking together and trying to work hard every day to push on.”
Willock isn’t sure why he’s not hitting the level he would like to be playing at but insists he’s not one to make excuses. “I know what I can do and I know I’m going to show what I can do, you know, and help the team in every possible way.
“There’s so many different factors in football — there’s a lot of things going on. As a team, we’re not really playing how we were last season, or at the back end of last season, so that’s a big factor.
“Also, I’ve had a few problems with my injuries, and not having a pre-season has really affected me with getting to the fitness levels I play at. My game’s really based on having a high fitness level, to be able to get from box to box and create chances.”
Towards the end of September, Willock was hurt in a fluke training ground accident, kicking the ground and managing to damage the capsule in his toe. It was expected to rule him out for at least one game but he was in the starting lineup the day after Bruce had ruled him out.
So, while injuries might have interrupted his training, he’s been available for every Newcastle match this season.
In total, Willock has played 10 times this season, without a goal or assist.
Three of his last four Premier League appearances have come from the bench with caretaker manager, Graeme Jones, benching him for his two games in charge.
Willock has played just 47 minutes for Jones and against Brighton on Saturday he remained on the bench.