Monday, April 22, 2024

Joe Willock – Data Viz

With the summer arrival of Thomas Partey, the emergence of Emile Smith Rowe and then the January loan acquisition of Martin Odegaard, Joe Willock found himself on the periphery of an already limited squad status. To benefit his development, it was decided he’d spend the remainder of the 2020/21 season on loan at relegation-threatened Newcastle United.

Born in Waltham Forest, Greater London — Willock is a product of Arsenal’s Hale End academy and joined the club at just 4-years-old. He made his first-team debut in the League Cup aged 18 and has gone on to make 78 first-team appearances (albeit many late cameos) in all competitions for The Arsenal.

The 21-year-old produced countless outstanding performances for the U23s under the guidance of Freddie Ljungberg. Willock has shown promise in the first team, shining brightest in the Europa League, where he scored 3 goals and created 3 assists in 5 European appearances this past season.

Although without regular minutes and a system that played to his strengths, the Hale End graduate never looked like the Newcastle loanee who’s just booked his place in the Premier League’s all-time longest goal-scoring streaks. Scoring in 7 consecutive games, he joins the likes of Thierry Henry and Ian Wright in 4th place.

The above pizza plot percentile ranks Joe Willock against the Big Five European League Midfielders. Percentile ranks are expressed as a number between 1 and 99, with 50 being the average.

The problem is that Willock’s skillset is difficult to fit into an already unbalanced team, which can often struggle to make positive contributions in passing moves. He isn’t a natural playmaker and arguably lacks the positional awareness to ply his trade in a double pivot — but the 21-year-old does boast an end product that is sorely missing from an Arsenal midfield offering very little goal threat. It’s well documented that Joe Willock scored more Premier League goals in his short time at Newcastle United than the entire Arsenal midfield combined.

The above plot shows Joe Willock’s heatmap (left) and successful passes received (right) during his loan spell at Newcastle United.

Yet it’s not as straightforward as transplanting a player into another system and expecting the same results. Steve Bruce deploys a 5-3-2 formation at Newcastle, with the loanee occupying the right side of a midfield trio. Playing in a team that parks the bus, averages just 38% possession and thrives on the counterattack, means the majority of Wilock’s touches take place in his own half.

Nevertheless, the young Englishman acts as a fantastic outlet because he can travel long distances with the ball and sniff out goal scoring opportunities. When The Magpies have possession, Willock is often the furthest man forward — acting as another striker. Of all passes received during his time at St. James’ Park, 13% were in the right half-space and 9% in the opposition box.

Arteta’s Arsenal is a possession-based side that struggles to break down low block defences, and whose improvements since the turn of the year can be attributed to the inclusion of two playmakers in their starting 11. One of whom occupies the position Willock would seem most likely to fill. Fitting in the 21-year-old isn’t as easy as it may seem.

During his loan spell, Willock appeared 14 times (11 starts), scoring 8 goals from just 1.56 shots per 90, with an impressive 71% on target, and from an average distance of just 11.9 meters. Broken down into 6 headers (2 goals), 11 right footed shots (3 goals) and 5 left footed shots (3 goals).

The youngster outperformed his expected goals considerably, strongly suggesting the rich vein of goalscoring form isn’t sustainable in the long term.

To put some of the statistics into context, Thomas Partey is shooting at a similar rate for Arsenal but not surprisingly, from further out (29 meters), and with just 15% accuracy. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s shot profile is more akin to Willock’s, with an average distance of 12 meters and non-penalty xG per shot of 0.16 (amassed over a greater sample of games), they’re almost identical — in many ways Joe Willock profiles as a forward.

The 21-year-old is deceptively tall at 6’1″. The manager said at one point this season “If we put bodies in the box, we’ll score goals — it’s pure maths” but Arteta’s Arsenal can often be guilty of spamming crosses to no one. Willock has shown at Newcastle that he is more than capable of being an aerial threat and can arrive in the opposition box at the right time, to get on the end of crosses.

Above are all progressive passes (inc. passes into the penalty area) during Willock’s loan spell at Newcastle.

But at what cost? Is his all-round game good enough for a team that wants to be in the Champions League? His passing repertoire is limited — Willock isn’t a player who offers ball progression (2.60 per 90 – 14th percentile) or incisive passing (0.64 passes into the penalty area per 90 – 66th percentile) that’ll open up tightly packed opposition defences.

Above are all defensive actions during Willock’s time at Newcastle – defensive actions include challenges, aerial duels, tackles, ball recoveries, interceptions and fouls.

While his defensive application isn’t in question (2.60 tackles per 90 – 74th percentile / 2.21 interceptions – 97th percentile), the 21-year-old can switch off and will need to improve his awareness quickly if he’s going to have any chance of starting in a midfield two that sits in front of a back four.

Freddie Ljungberg recently said, “If you use Joe Willock as a box-to-box midfielder, he comes late into the box, he will score goals and he’s just as quick as Aubameyang when he opens up his legs.”

It’s hard to disagree having watched him over the past few months — but everything we’ve learned so far would suggest his strengths are ideal for a midfield 3 in a 4-3-3 rather than Arteta’s current 4-2-3-1.

If the Arsenal manager wants to keep the dual creativity that changed his teams’ results overnight — Willock can’t play as a #10, and due to his defensive shortcomings and lack of ball progression — he probably can’t play in a midfield two either.

And so the question is — can he score enough goals or create enough uncertainty in his opponents to offset his shortcomings and warrant a potential change in formation, or should Arsenal cash in on what some perceive as just being a purple patch?

The youngster managed 3 goals coming off the bench for Newcastle, and although the idea of a super-sub is appealing — how much value would Arteta get from a squad player, when the alternative is to sell him for funds that would go a long way in improving the current starting 11?

Whatever the club decides, Mikel Arteta and Edu have a difficult decision to make.

Follow me on Twitter @jonollington

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Martin Harris

Player of the Month for April 😃

Martin Harris

May even lol


I would love to see the stats of Willock compared to Mueller, Ramsey. Arsenal faced similar issue with Ramsey, as his overall contribution to Arsenal was not that of a top player, but he kept scoring and scoring goals.
If Willock can keep himself fit for 50 games, then why not keep him. Its not that Arsenal are bursting with top midfielders or even midfielders.

Bleeding gums murphy

I think ramsey averaged 6 goals a season whilst with us. He certainly didn’t keep scoring and scoring. He had one outstanding season.


Few points –
1 Ramsey was injured quite a lot, so goal to min ratio is much higher
2 Ramsey played as a midfielder, and still gave us ~6 goals, and ~4+ assists in half a season.

All in all, Ramsey’s attack potential was always much higher. If he played full season, he would easily get > 10 goals. But alas, he was never fit for a full season.


It’s worth pointing out though that Wenger never played the structured attack that Arteta did. There were a lot of games where Ramsey ignored any defensive duties and was playing almost like a striker. He scored some huge goals but also had real drawbacks as well


And he diminished his own goal return in the end when he played way too far forward, rather than relying on his superb timing (arriving late in the box that one season). He needed a bit of the old leash.


A thing which is quite understated about Ramsey was his movement off the ball which caused huge problems for opposition central midfielders and defenders, consequently that would open up time and space for others on the ball and in the box. Its an attribute that ESR seems to have in abundance. And its a huge thing missing from Arteta’s Arsenal. That’s massively been down to the personnel he’s selected consistently in midfield, Xhaka always plays and he is extremely immobile, same as Elneny (and Cellabos). None of them really want to get in behind their man, and we use that… Read more »


In addition to what others have said, it’s also worth mentioning that Ramsey joined us at 17 years old, had limited minutes for his early time with us and spent a significant amount of time coming back from a near career breaking injury. Yet he’s still the highest goal scoring midfielder in Arsenal history.

Winterburns right wand

He’s literally scored in 7 games in a row and there’s no indication that scoring streak is coming to an end. We’ve got to get him in the team next season. Shoehorn him anywhere- a goal a game from midfield. If we keep a decent enough defence and the strikers pitch in with enough goals between them he’ll win us the league, and a good chance of a cup too. At least play him in the league 38 goals from midfield come on.


Do you honestly believe he will maintain that strike rate? I mean the absolute best players we have ever had have never really done that and although he has some greatbqualities Joe is no Thierry.


No one would say that. But 10 per season would be amazing.


Excellent analysis. Mirrors my sentiments too. Not an easy decision, but I would sell if I was Arteta.


Agreed. He just doesn’t fit into Arteta’s system. Not sure arteta knows how to use a player like willock based on his highly technical and tactical approach that relies on players in specific areas. Sell high now and get the type of player that does fit and don’t crush the value of another young player.

Teta's cult of personality ●█▀█▄

Does Mikel actually have a proper system?

The only times I’ve seen something resembling a system is when we’ve played bottom of the table teams.


If Pepe can adapt and fit his system, Willock who has learnt n to play the arsenal since a boy will easily fit, not sure he’ll need to adapt, he was more a cdm for a long time before he got this eye for goal, he knows and has the abilty to be a pivot, just hasn’t really had much trial there as a senior player, so most of these “stats” aren’t really a clear picture of his all round game.


Personally, I think it’s a prety easy deccision. We should definitely sell him. He doesn’t fit our style at all, his performances for us ended up with us loaning him out because he couldn’t get into our team. Evidence suggests he plays best as a counter-attacking midfielder in a defensive system. His goal scoring numbers aren’t sustainable and it’s likely he’ll never be worth more than he currently is (Covid financial issues aside, but if we sell then we should be reinvesting in this window anyway so it’s all relative).

100% should sell him.


He doesn’t fit in our style?
So sell?
I disagree…

When we counter attacked City, Chelsea and Liverpool we ended up winning the FA cup and the Community Shield.
When we played as Barca/City wannabe copycats… we ended up out of Europe.
We have Pepe, Auba, Martinelli, Smith-Rowe, Willock etc.
If neither of them fitting our style – we should try to think about changing our style instead. I think in a Bayern/Dortmund/Liverpool (or old fashioned Wenger) styled setup these players would be able to perform outstandingly.

I’d rather change the manager than the half of a talented, commited squad.


Excellent point though I’m not yet ready to call for the sacking of Arteta. But I agree that imitating ManC/Barca will get us nowhere.


But there are games when the opposition just sit with 10 men behind the ball. You can’t counter attack that as there is nothing to counter. You have to move the ball, side to side, sometimes backwards, and open up some spaces to exploit. All of the top teams have to do it. When you play another top team, sure, yes, counter attack, and I think in the past 18 months we have a decent record against the top 5, including some very big wins over Liverpool, United, City, and Chelsea. Joe can play for us, as he proved in… Read more »

Once a gunner

Arsenal always play in our way we don’t play in anybody’s pattern before Barcelona begin to reign in Europe that’s 2006 we know how Wengers team play that’s why most of us support this football club we are big we don’t copy


We all love Wenger but the true pioneer of this style of football was Cryuff and Ajax. Let’s be real. Hence why it carried forward to Barca when Cryuff took a managerial role there, and Wenger adopted it in the PL, bringing in a few players from the famed Ajax side of the early to mid 90’s. Let’s not be so bl**dy convoluted with this whole possession based Wenger style football and move on with the godd*mn time. Chelsea won their 2nd UCL playing counter attacking. So did Leicester and their 2016 PL. Klopp, Heyckness won plenty with direct, high… Read more »


I didn’t hear Arteta say he doesn’t fit our style. Joe needed a loan & game time to lift his confidence & match fitness. 1st few games with Newcastle he clearly lacked match fitness, yet scored. Last games he has had a more complete game contribution, been a starter. Willock can defo fit into our style, question is if Arteta is brave enough or even permitted to depend on so many youngsters. My bet is on that he will say for Joe


Will say “yes”


There is a question mark on Auba, we clearly don’t build the tram around him, which we have to utilize his strengths. But the rest fits perfectly with our game style


I agree with you, but the fact is Arteta isn’t getting sacked and can you really see him utilising a talent in the style of Joe Willock? He couldn’t before, I don’t see how he’s going to do it next time.


Did you watch the FA Cup and Europa League matches, when Joe won a few MotM awards?


Thank you for pointing that out. Especially the fa cup against Leicester where he played as a double pivot with elneny! People just have a perception without proper assessment of his game. They like to run with the narrative. I remembered even when we played liverpool early season willock played in a midfield 3 and was very good in possession. His technique is not as bad as they on here making it out to be! Not saying he is the finish article. His passing and final ball need work but that can be developed. He is only 21. With good… Read more »


I guarantee I’m one of the biggest Joe Willock fan-boys around. I was one of the only people defending him during the end of 2020 and then before the loan. Technically he’s solid, but it’s still not his strength, he isn’t going to play a tonne of advanced passes, but he does get into great spaces, his finishing is exceptional, he’s fast (stronger than most give him credit for), and defensively he’s really good too because of his workrate, recovery speed in particular and as the numbers show he’s elite in a pressing system. There is a really great player… Read more »


Then you must have seen that Willock thrived under Arteta, and you must have heard them speak about each other after those performances. There is a great relationship and understanding there. Joe is 21; he can learn to play any system. I know it is the default position that Arteta’s system lacks tempo and freedom, but surely that is not the intention. Teams that play possession-based football succeed when they are quick and creative; Arteta has subtly critiqued the way we haven’t done that too often this year. When we have been good, we’ve been quick, creative, and we have… Read more »


Liverpool is a great example. Joe Willock is a klopp style player. He actually reminds me a little bit of firmino who lacked polish in his early Liverpool days, but always got into great areas and his pace and workrate were phenomenal. Now he’s one of the better attackers in the league. I’m not saying arteta should bend his while will to fit willock, what I’m saying is willock doesn’t fit Arteta’s style so really for all parties wouldn’t it be better to sell high and find a player that does? I’d be bummed to see Joe leave but it… Read more »

Granit(e) hard!

Totally agree


Yes, I watched him and loved it because the Europa league qualifiers were literally the only games worth watching at that time because we were so bad in the league. We played with freedom (also against inferior opponents) and Joe was awesome.

Then the few opportunities Joe was given in the league he didn’t fit. Did you watch those games? Until proven otherwise I don’t see how Arteta can utilise a player like that. Watching the Champions league final it’s so obvious Arteta is just Pep-lite without the Billion dollar budget. He needs to be more adaptable next season.


Yes, of course. Joe needed more PL experience, and he got some. Playing for Newcastle is of course very different than playing for Arsenal — teams will be much more open, and that does suit Willock’s strengths. But this idea that Willock is another stick with which to beat Arteta is absurd. Especially since he has proven he can utilize Willock against lesser opposition to great effect (unlike Nelson, for example), to man of the match effect. Adaptable? You probably mean practical. Arteta tried, as people have rightly pointed out, too much, too many different lineups and too many tactical… Read more »

Jenas Wright Martin Mour

I wouldn’t say its a lock that he would not be sacked anytime soon. I really like Arteta because I believe he is earnest and trying his level best but I wouldn’t say I have complete faith in him turning around the club’s fortunes. Start as badly as he did this season in the next, and before mid season he could and rightfully should be gone. Personally for me he is on 6 months probation out of hope rather than faith because to believe in and supports someone’s rebuilding project, I need to see tangible progress, and at best all… Read more »


Since Christmas only one club in the PL amassed more points. That doesn’t call for sacking a manager or questioning his tactics.


Yes it does.

Unfortunately for Arteta, the season lasts from August to May, not December to May.

And his tactics clearly don’t work (Europa Semifinal, hello?) and bore us all to death almost as much as his pressers.


His tactics worked 31 times this season. 17 times they didn’t. 10 times they were a bit iffy. They worked really well last season when they delivered us another FA Cup, which is a really nice trophy to have, despite what everyone says on here. I really enjoyed that, to the bone.


Mate, we finished 8th. Again.

Yeah, the FA Cup is a wonderful old trophy and never to be sniffed at.

But this club should be top four minimum. And we’re a long way from that – and the football we play is, for the most part, utter tripe.

It’s not good enough. The manager isn’t good enough.


Mate, I know. We all do. No one debates that. As you’ve been saying all year long, the table doesn’t lie. We are 6 points off the top four, the same top four as last year. The gap is not as wide as you make it out to be. The football is not as bad as you make it out to be. We lost some terribly important matches this season, and it was heartbreaking, but honestly nothing new for this club in the last five-ten years (FA Cup excepted). We aren’t good enough: the manager has articulated that from day… Read more »


Short term ism destroys everything in this world. I’ve got the patience to see at least another half season for a club that has been overdue a real overhaul for years. That overhaul is underway. We’ve seen the rise of our young talent, the departure of some of the past, and a recent half-season record that is as good as just about anyone in the league – with a far lesser squad than some we’ve bettered that half season. Sure, the season goes from August to May. Look at the squad and starters in August. Look at them in May.… Read more »


We’ve seen a large improvement over the fall – but that’s also partially b/c the fall was legitimately relegation form. We created less chances from open play than any other team in ANY division of English football. The results have been much better in the PL but we’ve also cracked anytime there was any real pressure – every time we had a real chance to push on for the top 4 we imploded & the EL was one of the weakest exits you will ever see. We still have the same issues that we had last year – we struggle… Read more »




Sorry, but there are two options for a coach. One that will create a system to maximize what he has in players or one that will seek players to maximize his systems. The first type seems more like Emery who I respect but was ready to move on from. The second more like a Wenger or Arteta. He may not be the next Pep, but if we continue to back him with players that fit his style, he may in fact prove to be quite good. He’s done the dirty work behind the scenes to get house sorted and I’m… Read more »


Also, Klopp came in and finished 8th in his first year at Liverpool. But Liverpool management always knew it was a multi year project that would take time to transition. They set the expectation of 4 years for trophies and they were rewarded for taking the long approach. It’s what we should do as well. Short term thinking is Jose Mourinho approach. Leveraging the future of your club for short term success only to be total disaster in 2-3 years. Also, if you look at this season as two separate seasons… one before house was cleaned (Ozil Mustafi etc were… Read more »


Klopp also had a very clear style of play & a strong track record. If memory serves correct that 8th place finish was when he took over the last few months of the year. Similar to Arteta last year.


The whole article indicates that he doesn’t fit our style. Our eyes tell us he doesn’t fit our style.

You’re Suggesting that we change our style to play counter attack to fit Joe Willock? I’m not sure why you bring up the other players who clearly can play and perform in this system we’re set on using..

Bob's Mexican Cousin

Arteta doesn’t fit in the Arteta system at times.

He has something we lacked last season. He should get a chance. We are the club of second chances at any rate (ask all the old folks at Chelski).


While he may go on to become a good player in another system, I agree that he doesn’t fit Arsenal or Arteta’s style. He played plenty of games under Arteta and Emery to show that in Arsenal’s team he will be of limited impact. Not that he won’t be a decent squad player though. But Arteta will be upgrading his midfield this summer, so chances will only become more limited for a player who has qualities but just not the right mix for this team. It wouldn’t hurt to keep him as a squad player, but I think his value… Read more »

Murphy was an Arsenal Fan

So long as Arsenal sneak in lots of sub-clauses that ensure that there’s always a chance to get him back relatively cheaply, selling doesn’t seem bad for now.


I don’t get the logic here. Sacrifice a youth player, who’s only 21, because of one manager’s preference for possession football?? 1. Managers are far more temporary, you can easily replace Arteta 2. But there’s no guarantee you’ll have anyone coming thru your ranks who has the skill set of Joe 3. Possession based football, the one you lot are getting all self righteous about, has got us nowhere. And it also costed City the UCL last night 4. Possession based football (I personally hate it) isn’t the only way to play football I’m sorry if Arteta can’t find a… Read more »


City won the league playing that way and Chelsea also play possession based football… I’m not sure you have a point…


Did you watch the UCL final? 61% possession to Chelsea’s 39%. Unless you’re stupid then this is mathematically very easy.

This is the same Chelsea who spent £200mil just this summer and have flair players like Ziyech, Pulisic, Gilmour, Mount, Jorginho, Kovacic. Far more technically adept players than our current roster. And yet they can play counter attacking. We’re bloody 8th and maybe our best players at keeping the ball are Odegaard and ESR, and one of them is on loan. Yet you’re still obsessed with possession football, as if that makes you a better team. Does my mind in.


Agree, he’d probably be useful but the 20-25 millions we could gather for him will help us more.


Nope. Why? To put a few more dollars in the owners pockets? He’s one of ours and he’s 21 years old. Selling him would be madness.

Mr November

Joe Willock as a centre forward? He presses, he intercepts, he carries the ball and gets into good scoring positions. I think it’s worth having a look at him there in pre-season.



Santa’s Thigh Grab

we have no idea what will happen in the market either buying or selling players re value or the amount of money we have to spend. I like Willock and would love to see him succeed at Arsenal but he does seem built for a counter attacking side middle or as a false nine where he could enter the box later. The comparison to Auba in the data was interesting. Arsene would not have been afraid to try Willock as a center forward, he has Qualitee even if those without imagination can’t see it. We should still sell though if… Read more »


The big question is how he would go in hold up play. But honestly, I think it’s probably the best chance of having him fit into an Arteta system. I’d love for us to keep Joe and for it to work. Maybe this is the way?! False nine anyone [as I slap palm of hand to face]?


It sounds kinda bonkers, but based on the role Lacazette was sometimes asked to play this year, I’ve heard worse suggestions. He’s got an obvious eye for goal.


The keep/sell willock is one of the more difficult decisions we’ve had to make in a while. Personally, I think if the fee is anything less than 30m we shouldnt cash in. If we are to cash in we need to take full advantage of his inflated price. I’m not sure Newcastle have that kind of money though. And if we do sell him it may make sense to include a buy back clause. It’s also important to remember how willock played when he was an arsenal player in the PL – he often disappeared in games, struggled to get… Read more »


I’ve said this before but I think our midfield has a big positioning issue. Our midfield struggles to get in space/good positions to 1) receive the ball from our def/gk which is why you’ll see us play so many risky passes out the back or just boot it up the pitch- there’s no coherent outlet forward and 2) create triangles and space WITHIN the midfield. I think we do this best with a midfield of xhaka-partey-odegaard, but you’ve all seen how often we pass out wide, back to the def – the dreaded horseshoe shape. Even when we’ve played well… Read more »


Keep and make it work


We badly need a new manager, who can use his strengths.


Ask Newcastle fans if they would recommend Bruce…. We 100% do not need a manager who can get the most out of Joe Willock’s strengths.

Heavenly Chapecoense

Because that manager needs to be Bruce? Someone who can get the best out of Willock, AMN, Partey, Martinelli and even Gabriel isn’t a bad idea.


The article and everything else points to him fitting a counter attacking team. Bruce is an example of a manager that plays counter attacking football. I’m not saying it has to be Bruce but he’s the only manger that we know can get the best out of him at the minute. If you can think of another and back it up with reasoning I’m all ears but if it ends with us playing like Newcastle I’m out.


Exactly. Good to see a lot more people seeing through Arteta and his BS.


Do you ever get tired of grinding that axe?


Do I ever get tired of wanting the best for Arsenal….?

Nah. 😊

Man Manny

I see the quandary.
It seems everything points to a sale.
But if my memory serves me well, all these were said about Aaron Ramsey at one point or another while he was in Arsenal. He seemed to stick out like a an oddly shaped tooth.
Can Arteta and his team mould Willock into another Ramsey?


When you mention Ramsey, I always imagine him injured. If you check his stats though, Aaron played 20-30 games most seasons. He only ever got to 10 goals in one season though and never really nailed down a position.


Ramsey was a central part of an Arsenal side that gradually fell away from being competitive in the PL and while his contributions to our FA cup wins are valuable he’s not the consistant all rounder that you build a team around. He was a defensive liability in midfield and not technically good enough to play as a 10. I can see similarities and I’m not so sure it’s a good thing.


The thing with Ramsey is that that team was never built around him, it was built around Ozil, and to a lesser extent Sanchez. The double-pivot in a slow, build up side didn’t suit his strengths but he performed admirably all the same. Probably our best player in Wenger’s last season and Emery’s first. An aggressive 4-3-3 or even a 4-4-2 would have fit his style much more imo.

Man Manny

But I remember a lot of fans moaning about Ramsey’s departure. Many wanted him to extend his stay here.


People who knocked Aaron Ramsey didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about.

The guy came back from a career threatening injury to become our best player of 2013/14. Also scored two FA Cup Final winners.

We’ve missed his influence and industry in midfield. But, then again, Arteta would have him passing sideways and backwards for 90+ like the rest.


I think most of us appreciate Aaron’s amazing comeback from injury and his undoubted quality in front of goal. Who can forget his last goal against Spurs with such composer.

The problem is that you have to acknowledge that he wasn’t the way forward any longer. His time at Juve proved that it was one of the rare correct decisions taken on older players.


Well, as I have stated elsewhere, young Joseph has certainly proved me wrong. I honestly didn’t think he was good enough to cut it in the Premiership. But, take him out of a rigid stale form of football and place him in a reasonably free flowing form of football and hey presto – goals galore. In these days of limited funds, tight-fisted majority shareholders and having to sell our players to put loo paper in the Emirates toilets, etc, etc, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to sell Xhaka (I honestly don’t give a toss about the… Read more »


Newcastle have played a rigid stale form of football and he thrived. The problem with Willock is his genreal game hinders a team from playing free flowing football….


I’ve read the majority of your comments throughout the season. You’re a bitter supporter. Never constructive.
Whatsup man?

Giovanni Hovno

newcastle “free flowing”? Do you really want Arsenal to emulate how Newcastle play? You think he can do a role alongside Partey in the midfield two? We must be inhabiting alternative realities


Ok. Tell me, given a decent manager who advocates attacking football, why Joe Willock can’t play alongside Partey in front of the back four and help link up with ESR – and grab a few goals into the bargain? I’m all ears mate. We’re always moaning about a lack of goals from midfield. There you go. As for how Newcastle play, did I say that I wanted us to play like them? NO. Did I say that their playing was reasonably free flowing compared to our rigid style? I think you’ll find I did. In fact, to be honest ANYTHING… Read more »


Two sides of the same tarnished coin. 5 thumbs up & 5 thumbs down says it all👍


I think this says more about Arsenal’s deficiencies than Joe Willock. Slow predictable possession based build up is dull to watch and quite frustrating as a fan.

I can’t count the amount of times a break was on this season only to see the furthest player check back and the ball ends up with centre backs while the opposition reposition their defence.

Don’t bother with this slow game unless you have the players capable of breaking down massed defence.


Exactly this. I find it a bit bizarre that we’re questioning whether Willock can fit into the system when it’s clear that the system needs to change, and drastically.


Yep. I’ve been saying this all season.

I tell you this, the Emirates faithful won’t put up with that shit, week in week out.

I think our so-called ‘manager’ is in for a rude awakening…..


Even if Arteta gets a bit turnover of players this summer, I still think many of our best players don’t flourish in his slow buildup system. Our most exciting players with goal threat like Martinelli, Pepe and Smith Rowe would be great in a team that break quicker and use their pace.


Exactly. I’ve been saying for ages, it’s not the players – it’s how they’re being asked (commanded) to play. Our squad is packed with internationals, a good many of them seasoned full internationals. They didn’t get to that level in the game playing for Arteta. Our current squad is definitely capable of top six and probably top four at a push. To finish 8th isn’t good enough – and to have been 15th at Christmas is unforgivable. I could stomach it all a bit more if the football we play is easier on the eyes. (At least with Arsene, for… Read more »


Agreed Qwaliteee. It is a lot easier to tolerate losses if the football is good, or bad football if you win. The combination of losing with dull play is not going too well, but I still live in hope each season.


Would love to see stats comparison with Ramsey.

Ramsey didn’t thrive as a number 10 either and needed to have a very specific, that is technically secure and great passer of the ball next to him when played as a B2B midfielder in order to get the best out of him (or in fact the team as a whole).

But when the system with Ramsey worked, it worked beautifully.

I’m inclined to keep him but at the same time I will just watch curiously to see what we are planning to do with him (and the team).


No doubt abt willock talent. Is just a question how will arteta use him, how does he fits into the system, can arteta really improve willock. Only time will tell.


Maybe the system should change. Mould the system to the players available – not vice versa

It’s a tough call to make. If we can move Willian on, I would be okay with giving that spot in the squad to Willock. Maybe we could get £20m for Willock, but if we move Willian on – who is on £10m a year for the next 2 years – that would be £20m saved anyway. An issue Willock himself may have is a possible lack of playing time – especially with no European football. He would be relatively down the pecking order with Saka, ESR, Pepe, Martinelli, and Odegaard (or new signing) all ahead of him. I guess… Read more »


But Odegaad can’t score so what’s the basis


He’s got a great attitude and he’s Arsenal to the bone. He’s young enough to expect that he can improve in the areas he does not excel. Obviously, he won’t be scoring as much as he did for the Magpies. But who would we get for the money earned from selling Willock who would do better for us? Keep him. It’s not as though “our style” is so fabulous that tweaking it to incorporate Willock would necessarily lower our level of play or results.


It would be interesting to know how many Arsenal players read Arseblog.


So many points raised but if Arteta midfield couldn’t provide us with goals which is the ultimate what’s the sense in continuing with a formation that is poor in goal scoring from midfield?

So are you saying that he cannot play Ceballos role and still score goals?

Benny Tan

Willock as a box to box midfielder n goal scoring midfielder, ticks many boxes. He can be relied upon to hit many goals from midfield. While I can see why he divides opinion with his poor stats in possession, you cannot ignore the fact that he is still young and not the finished product. If Vardy was playing at Fleetwood Town at 24 years old, n his ex Leicester team mates, Kante and Mahrez still languishing in the lower leagues at Willock’s age, I cannot imagine how good Willock can possibly be if he smooths out the rough edges in… Read more »


On the basis that Willock’s form isn’t a flash in the pan. Could a 4-1-4-1 set up work? With TP as holding mid. JW could slot in with ESR in centre mid.


Talk of whether Willock can fit the system almost seems like a red herring, given that the “system” is evidently not fit for purpose. He’s not the only one at Arsenal that struggles to play in such an indirect way. Maybe it’s the 500 back-passes a game that needs to change, not the personnel….

Billy bob

I suspect, if Arteta reads this, he will sell Willock!!


Fucking crude oil derby tonight

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Championship play-off was the biggest match of the day.

Norwich, Watford, Brentford all promoted – good for Arsenal, all relatively short distances to travel.


Sour grapes. Denial.

You’ll be telling yourself next that at least our players are rested this evening.

Nainsley Aitland Miles

Denial about what? I’m just stating the fact. Winning the Champions League final is worth an extra £20 million to the winner. Winning the Championship play-off final is worth £170 million minimum. So the Championship play-off final was the biggest match of the day yesterday. By far.


Erm….football is about more than prize money.

Your, prestige, your honours list, your trophy cabinet?

That said, yes, there is your global market value to consider. Win the ECL these days and long term you’ll probably generate more than £170 million in increased global fan base revenue, sponsorships and attracting better players.

The ECL is the big one in club football – and that includes potential earnings.


They’re both there. We’re not.

Crude oil or not, there’s certainly no chance of the ECL final ever being a KSE derby, that’s for sure

Give youth a chance

Willock doesn’t fit with our Plan A setup, but he looks a great option to have if we need a Plan B.

Aside from that, he’s only 21, and has plenty of time to learn the positional awareness and discipline that he needs.

One to keep in my book, especially if Arteta believes he can be coached pashis shortcomings


We have a plan?

Neil Bamford

I would love to keep him but I just don’t think he would suit the kind of system Arteta is looking to play. So it pains me to say he’s most probably better off at another club who can make the most of his talent in that kind of position.

I’d just be gutted that if we sold him and then did it get the play maker that we need over the summer. They need to start pulling their finger out and making some announcements

Naked Cygan

I got an idea. Sack Arteta, get Steve Bruce and Willock will score for us
every game.

Maul Person

Well Arteta said he will definitely be here in the new season so that, to me, suggests a conversation about HOW he’ll be used not whether he’ll be here!



Buy Alain Saint Maximin.


Agreed. And MacNeil.


My estimated values of our players: Sell Laca (25m) + Eddie (20m) + Willian (5m) = 50m Make a 50m offer for Alain St Maximin Sell Xhaka (20m) + Torreira (18m) + Guendouzi (15m) = 53m Sell Hector (20m) + Cedric (2m) + Kola (5m) = 27m Keep AMN as cover for both full back positions (he does well on the left) Keep Chambers as the right sided centre back in a back 3, occasional right back Keep both loan defenders and develop the centre back pairings Holding+Mari, Saliba+Gabriel, Mavropanos+Mari. Keep Reiss Nelson and convert to wingback, he has done… Read more »


25m for Laca with 1 year on contract might be optimistic. And 20m for Eddie?


You forgot to list your magic wand.

What on earth makes you think people are immediately going to snap up our driftwood like Guendouzi, Cedric and Kolasinac…?

As for Willian, someone is going to need to be press ganged into signing that clown.



AMN Saliba Mari Kieran
Willock Partey ESR
Pepe Saka



Willock Partey ESR
Saka Pepe


* Captain – Tierney.


(Pepe right, Saka left)


Seems more like strikers stats. Passing percentages aren’t good enough for a midfielder next to party or cam in our position. But shots and pressing is more like a strikers skill set.

Basil mcfawlty

we are provably selling torreira, guendouzi and maybe even Xhaka this summer (I know I shouldn’t pay that much attention to silly season rumours), that would bring in a fair amount, conservatively around 30-35 million, I see no reason we can’t keep willock and try to get Tomas Soucek, a bid of around 25 million would probably get him (and no afcon). that would give a bit of flexibility, Soucek could partner partey in a two, or provide balance in a three with willock and partey. than we get a back up left back, probably another right back and we… Read more »


Giroud has won the Europa League and the Champions’ League in just 3yrs after leaving Arsenal for Chelsea
I think the message is clear guys


Yep. Nothing like a Spartan splash of cold water to the face and the waft of coffee in the morning….


Convert him to false 9?



We could play him in the Europa League Semifinal Away leg….



It wasn’t just goals at Newcastle, his all round play was outstanding. I’m not sure you can compare his passing stats while at Newcastle to what they would be at arsenal – Newcastle don’t play a passing game so his options are far more limited. And in any case, the important thing is that he affects the game. I’m done with mind numbing passing for passing sake. Let’s have players who can make a genuine impact and make things happen. For me it’s a no brainer. He’s 21 local academy graduate showing immense promise. If we sell him I’ll be… Read more »


Same here brother. Straight up no brainer. We finally got a midfielder with some goals in him and we rather piss him off somewhere because we rather a brand name. The boy is finally coming into his own. Let him flourish at arsenal.
Use this window to clear the deadwood. We have at least 8 of them that need to go. Certainly not willock!


Well said.


Damn you John Ollington, for injecting your dastardly balanced statistics and common sense right into the heart of my dream of another Hale End boy making it to first team stardom! It’s truly a maddening scenario. I want Joe Willock at Arsenal for years to come. I want him to team up with his mates Saka amd ESR and lead this club’s return to glory. And then there’s reality; if Newcastle or anyone else come in between 25-30m (20m is too low to sell him), then, as you say, Edu and Arteta have a very tough call to make… Thanks… Read more »


His word isn’t gospel mate, it’s just an opinion.

I reckon Willock could quite comfortably replace Xhaka and form a three midfield with Partey and ESR. Then you have a no-brainer front three of Pepe on the right, Saka on the left and Auba central.

Won’t happen of course. Far too much like common sense for Arteta, in spite of the fact that he has said he wants the team to become a 4-3-3.


Well you never know…Arteta has mentioned his intention to build a team that could eventually play 4-3-3. May not be that far-fetched. I would like to see that line up, but I fear there would need to be more defensive stability than that group would offer…


Shame Arsene wasn’t still in charge, because with him you’d probably get those front six. Arteta? Don’t hold your breath.

Now that we’ve moved on Mustafi and are moving on Luiz, the defence has improved, although we’re still prone to soft goals. But we need to be far more adventurous / courageous / fucking normal (take your pick) in attack.

We surely can’t have a repeat of last season.

B Jack

This is a super cool analysis and breakdown of the player!! Really insightful


absolutely beautiful formatting and presentation of fantastic data analysis. high quality stuff, thank you.

S'up Johnny

Some really nice graphics man


Its very easy to say sell and invest in abetter player but we don’t have a good track record in investing in better players. We sold our no.2 goalie and we got a Sunday league goalie in return.

There’s no goals in midfield and we have bought quite a few players there and we still don’t have goals. New player don’t necessarily mean better.

I would say keep him and see what else we get before thinking of selling.


I’m confused, he can score for Newcastle, against teams we struggle to score against yet you don’t think he can help the team? Guess we can sell him and buy more players like Willian and Ceballos.


Can someone please do the same for Aaron Ramsay and compare them?
Sometimes you need bombastic players that create havoc and score goals without being great at much else.

Anand Verma

He has never looked like a 10 to me. I didn´t get how he got played there. With these stats he could become a centre forward that presses aggressively and can be effective in the air. He could even be a right back with a whole wing to run up and down to use his running power. But I see him as a very mobile holding mid who can get out of trouble in tight spaces by twisting and turning in possession. He can pick a 20 yard pass from deep too. Watch the pre season game in summer 2019… Read more »

Anand Verma

This game (Barca pre season in summer 2019) is what Arteta should have Willock replicating for us next season


“Willock can’t play as a #10, and due to his defensive shortcomings and lack of ball progression — he probably can’t play in a midfield two either.” i think you summed it up in a nutshell here. either he plays as one of the two attacking mids in a three or maybe even as a deeper lying striker but i can’t see him fitting into this arsenal team, especially as partey does not seem to want to be the anchor on his own. for me, partey is the elephant in the room. he is very very average as an attacking… Read more »


He could form a three midfield with Partey and ESR. Then a front three of Pepe on the right, Auba central and Saka on the left.

Arteta has said that he wishes to move towards a 4-3-3. Well, there you go.


These graphics are 🔥!


Whoops – meant to say, “beautiful”!

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