Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Willock takes his first steps on long route to the top

Arsenal often afford a plethora of youngsters the opportunity to impress during pre-season, indeed a large number of players received run-outs in last weekend’s opening friendly victory against Boreham Wood, but only a select few are invited to featured at just 16 years of age.

What made the inclusion of Chris Willock, who played 45 minutes against the Conference South side, even more remarkable was the fact that he featured for the first-team before he had even been called up to the U21 team. The hugely-promising youngster, who can operate as an attacking midfielder or on either flank, struggled with injuries last season, but still featured 12 times for the U18s, having made his debut at that level during the previous campaign.

Against Boreham Wood, Willock, despite the fact that he is still somewhat slight physically, didn’t look at all out of place in a first-team environment. The England youth international didn’t see much of the ball, but when he did receive possession he used it wisely and he developed an effective understanding with left-back Nacho Monreal, who helped to guide the youngster through the game.

There had been calls, in the wake of that performance, for Willock to stay with the first-team for their trip to New York, but Arsene Wenger elected to leave the youngster behind, meaning he is instead likely to feature for the U21s against Harrow Borough tomorrow. That appears to be a wise move. Willock has superb technical qualities, but requires some development physically before he can be thrown into regular first-team action.

That will come in time, but for now his aim will be to gain as much experience of youth team football as possible, whether with the U18s or the U21s. He will seek to follow the precedent set by Chuba Akpom, who featured regularly for the second-string during the first year of his scholarship, effectively bypassing U18 football.

With a more experienced first-team squad than in previous years, Arsenal are no longer in a position where they need to rush promising youngsters into the senior set-up. Yesterday Wenger remarked that Gedion Zelalem, for all his technical wizardry, will not be able to start in the Premier League for at least six months, whilst Dan Crowley, a midfielder of similarly great potential, didn’t even feature against Boreham Wood.

It is important to let these players develop and allow them to play regularly first at youth team level, where they can still learn a lot, enabling them to gain the required physicality to play top-level football, instead of propelling them into the first-team at the earliest possible opportunity.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird



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Take your time kids… we’ll be seeing you lift trophies at the Emirates in the years to come

the little boy in sanchez

Hope he has better luck and turns out to be another fabregas


Another Fabregas? A rat that played shit his last season and then went on strike and forced a move to Barca and then was poison in the dressing room there, got shipped out and Wenger declined, and then signed for Chelsea. Yeah, i really hope he turns out like him…

AS17 is for A.Sanchez not

hello no. become another boy with barca dna only to end up at Chelski. I said Hell noooooo

AS17 is for A.Sanchez not

hell no. become another boy with barca dna only to end up at Chelski. I said Hell noooooo

Harish P

“The hugely-promising youngster… struggled with injuries last season”

I know it’s common for our first team to get more injuries than most Premier League teams, but is it normal to read about almost every youth player of ours having a injury-laden seasons.

Does anyone know if every club’s youth prospects deal with it as much as ours? Just wondering if it’s a general youth thing as they get ‘broken into’ for top flight football.

matty t.

Just read the last couple of months entries in your blog Jeorge. Absolutely excellent work. Really interesting, inciteful and well written. My interest in the youth set up waned a little in the last couple of seasons due to a sense that our academy really wasn’t functioning as well as it should but with the appointment of Jonker and your knowledge and sterling efforts to keep us informed it has been revived. Thanks a lot!

matty t.

Insightful not inciteful!

Hardcore Hleber

Lets see you develop kids yourself, Mourinho, you bag fat flappy cunt you


On am unrelated note, traveling 600 miles today to catch my first ever arsenal game! Surreal!

Rob Smith

Sell em’ all. Money talks loudest. Sick of all these future-men.

ozil's vision

Wizardary of Zalalem; simply mouth-watering. 6months is quite some time, but I’m certain it’ll be worth the wait!


our youth policy and set up is good we always have promising youngsters wether they are the shining stars time will tell but we have to persue this avenue that we get some more players within the set for first the team #wengerknowsbest


Would love to see Chuba come out and really push for a role in the first team. Would be good to see the academy can produce some goalscorers as well.

Who the F**k are Sp*rs?

We haven’t bought a world class star for well over a week now. Sod this, Wenger out!! Seriously though, what about all these rumours about Casillas? If we get Khedira as well then the great Real Madrid will become Arsenal’s feeder club. I’m getting fidgety, Emirates Cup can’t come quick enough. Then a week later the long but bountiful road to glory begins. BTW, when does the 3rd kit come out? Gunners, Hoy!


Willock looked marvellous against Boreham Wood. I’m sure that he, Crowley, Zelalem, and Gnabry will turn out as well as, or better than, that other club’s class of ninety-something that I occasionally hear about.



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