Joe Willock received many plaudits for his performance in Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over Blackpool, with the midfielder’s brace serving to highlight just how much he has progressed this season.
Last campaign Willock received plenty of first-team opportunities in the cup competitions and, while he showed glimpses of the undoubted quality that he possesses, there was a feeling that there was something missing from his game.
At times then Hale End product seemed unwilling to take risks as he preferred to play safe passes, while he often wasn’t able to have much of an overall impact in games.
Now, though, Willock is almost a different player entirely, with Freddie Ljungberg’s coaching in the U23 setup having helped him immensely.
Willock is frequently making excellent runs forward from deep-lying positions, while, as he demonstrated against Blackpool, he is becoming more clinical in front of goal and also seems to be playing with greater confidence.
There is, of course, still much work for Willock to do in order to fully make the breakthrough into the first-team, but he is certainly heading in the right direction and will be aiming to make some appearances in the Premier League before the season reaches its conclusion.
Were Willock not so close to the first-team squad, it would have been tempting for the club to send him out on loan this month so that he could develop even further.
As it stands, though, it is perhaps more beneficial for him to remain at Arsenal, where he can continue to improve in training.
More than most players, Willock seems perfectly suited to Unai Emery’s style of play as he is capable of exchanging passes with his team-mates quickly before making those aforementioned dynamic runs.
Today represented a significant step in Willock’s development and further opportunities surely won’t be far away.