Joe Willock was not good for Arsenal against Brighton, but that doesn’t mean that he has disqualified himself as a Premier League player.
I don’t know why I bother commenting on what Arsenal fans are saying anymore, it’s not like they’re going to stop. That said, dismissing Joe Willock as a player who doesn’t deserve to be in the Premier League is just enough to get me pissed off enough to say something.
Joe Willock is young. He’s inexperienced and unpolished. But damn, that kid has heart. More than Ozil and Aubameyang combined. He never quits, and he fights so hard that he’s often all tuckered out by the hour mark. Which is a double-edged sword.
I’ll admit that Willock hasn’t been the best lately, as he’s been a bit reckless with the ball, but let me remind you that a year ago, Matteo Guendouzi was the same way. Now he’s remarkably sturdy in possession.
It’s called learning. The same way that what Nicolas Pepe is doing is called acclimating. These are parts of the game that a toxic fan base will never respect, because they want a solution yesterday.
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Pump the brakes on Joe Willock. He’s a f***ing kid who loves the club and wants to help them out of their funk. What would you rather, someone who fights his heart out and fails, or someone who doesn’t even try? Because we got both.
That said, Freddie Ljungberg needs to pump the brakes on Joe Willock too. That means removing him from the starting XI and relegating him to substitution duties for now. There are other young players who deserve to be out there, who need a chance to lift up the club.
There’s Emile Smith Rowe, for instance, or Bukayo Saka, or Gabriel Martinelli, all of whom can be worked into the spot vacated by Willock in an effort to provide opportunity and the potential for growth and improvement. I admire how many managers are sticking with Willock, but he’s not the only kid here.
And he’s a smart guy. He’s not going to go into convulsions if he isn’t put in the starting XI for a few matches. By my reckoning, those “few matches” start on Monday.
Willock will be back. He’s a talented kid who just needs some fine-tuning. But forcing the issue doesn’t always solve the problem. It’s okay to take a step back and try something new.