Arsenal’s attacking midfield situation has been shaken and stirred recently, with Dani Ceballos essentially driving Mesut Ozil into obscurity. Don’t look now, but here comes Joe Willock.
Arsenal‘s creative midfield situation is an empty canvas right now. There’s a few spatterings of paint, but not enough to interpret. And none of that paint belongs to Mesut Ozil. Because Ozil has been driven into complete irrelevance by Dani Ceballos, the loaned Spanish star.
Ceballos created another three chances against Bournemouth, though it’s no secret that he hasn’t found his miraculous Burnley form. But what Unai Emery values him for his his work rate. The one thing that Mesut Ozil has never been able to figure out.
It’s nice to see though. Ceballos tracked all the way back to help defend and even won back a couple of balls near the Arsenal goal box, and that’s why we can avoid the whole No. 10 position entirely and focus instead on a complete midfield three.
That said, and just to reiterate, Ceballos hasn’t been that good. And since we all love to overstate numbers, let’s go ahead and do that here, this time stating the case for Joe Willock, who could push Ceballos to the bench.
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Stacked up side by side, there’s hardly a split between the two. Ceballos creates 0.1 more chances per 90. They complete the exact same number of dribbles. Willock manages 0.1 more ball recoveries. Ceballos loses possession 0.1 times less than Willock. Ceballos has a goal and two assists. Willock has three goals.
The only big difference is that Ceballos gets dribbled past a good deal—2.1 times per match. While Willock is only dribbled past 0.3 times per match.
As you see, across the board, very similar. Ceballos has played twice as many Premier League minutes, but Willock has to be on the brink of stepping in front of the Spaniard. And it wouldn’t exactly be that surprising, seeing as how Unai Emery has had no problems giving youth the green light. Look at Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.
Willock is clearly another favorite of Emery’s, and he’s got the skillset that Emery values in a midfielder. So it can’t be that far away, assuming that Ceballos doesn’t shape up and start doing a bit more with his time soon.
Making these kids earn their keep is only going to help them, so it’s not like the switch has to happen tomorrow. But the switch does have to happen at some point if Willock continues to outperform.