Like many others I was very impressed with Joe Willock’s performance against Molde. He seemed to play in a free role behind the attackers and he added real penetration and ‘coordinated chaos’ – yes it’s an oxymoron – in the opponent’s box. His sheer athletic, physical presence and ability to penetrate a tight defence with his dribbling and ball-control skills led to not one but two, more or less forced, own goals; and he also scored a goal himself from the edge of the box late on that was pure class.
We all know Arsenal have been missing a scoring midfielder for quite a while. The last one was Ramsey who could be great once he was fully fit and had a few games under his belt. Unfortunately, Aaron was too injury-prone for us to be able to count on him and he hesitated too long with signing a new deal. These days he warms the Juve bench in a zebra shirt and his career is petering out, as is the case with so many of our recent midfield super talents. A sad story but that is for a future post.
Under Areta the team is gradually evolving to a much more disciplined and balanced team, and I think more change (and possibly some setbacks/bad results) is to come. Partey’s signing offers the manager great opportunities to make us both defensively sound and more effective and dominant in attack. As our favourite currently inactive Taxi-Driver-Kev has said: Partey could be Arsenal’s ‘Van Dijk signing’. Yes, the one who allows us to make a paradigm-jump. First signs are good, very good. The question is where should the Ghanaian giant play to have the biggest impact?
I have little doubt that Xhaka will retain his left-sided deeper role in midfield for most of our games. Granit is so like Mikel was in his footballing days, but both need a proper box-to-box midfielder next to shine properly. I reckon left-footed Xhaka and right-footed Partey will make a formidable couple, and Elneny is ideal as back-up and regular replacement for either of the two. All three will get plenty of games as long as we are playing the cup competitions or playing two leagues games in a week. It is great to have now a luxury of three excellent midfielders for these two key positions. I also rate Ceballos as a fourth option but am less enthusiastic about his play compared to other BKers. But there is plenty of time for him to develop further, of course, and I love Ceballos’ workrate and enthusiasm.
So Thomas for me should play mostly in a box to box role and thus help us to push up the team closer to the box of the opponent. This is vital for our ability to connect with the attack and create much more chances through our passing and runs into the box. Partey can pick great passes and can regain the ball in no time when turnovers occur. Alternatively, he can occasionally sit back and allow Granit to push up and dictate our attacking game with his sharp diagonal passes and lobs over the top. We would be more unpredictable than we are currently, and our attackers would become less isolated. Much more than adding an Ozil-like creator to the team, I believe that being able to push up 20-30 yards into the opposition’s half is paramount for creating more chances and thus scoring more goals.
But there is one more benefit of playing two of Xhaka-Partey-Elneny at the base of midfield, and I really hope this is Mikel’s next evolutionary step: we can play a player in the hole, the Nr10, area. An area I am sure that Ramsey – who I never really saw as a proper B2B midfielder – would have been playing under Arteta had he signed the Gunners’ contract.
What Arteta seems to want in such a position is a KdB sort of type, with freedom to move round but also play a very disciplined game in terms of positioning, workrate, defensive duties etc. The Aouar rumours were strong and we are just eight weeks away from the next transfer window…
But I don’t think we need to buy for this position as yet. We have options: Saka, Willian, ESR, Ceballos and even Martinelli, once he is fit, could be awesome in front of the DM/B2B midfielders and behind the attackers. All these players have great potential and Willian would be a safe pair of hands with his PL and CL winning experience.
But now that Willock has put in some very strong performances albeit against lesser opposition, let’s see more of him in the ‘nr10’ role in Arteta-ball. No doubt Joe will have setbacks again as he is only 21 and that is a very big role to play well in game after game, so let’s be patient. But Willock was instrumental in our recent UEFA-League wins and he keeps producing assists and scoring goals which is so rare for Arsenal midfielders. Maybe now is the time to allow him to play some PL games in front of and behind the big boys.
11 thoughts on “Has Arteta Finally Found Our New Ramsey?”
Good shout there on Willock, TA, but may be a season too soon. The good news is he’s getting chances to strut his stuff in the cup games, so no problem of match rustiness there; plus, he seems to be enjoying his role in those “lesser games”. Getting time in PL games? Now, that’s a different kettle of fish, unless in those games in which we are comfortably ahead.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Willock will turn out good in the near future but we’ve all seen him in the EPL and he’s not had the same influence as he’s had in the cup games. To be honest, I rated his brother, Chris Willock more, when they were both in our academy so, it is a surprise it is Joe we have retained and groomed. Arteta loves him, clearly but he is a realist too. He knows he needs to ease him in gently or the fans will ruin him with the high expectations. Willock works hard and never stops moving. He tries to win back the balls when he loses possession. In the EPL, he would need to add pace and power to his play. He has the skills and the movement. He also needs to stay humble (see Saka).
Aaron Ramsey showed glimpses of a good player, even at 18/19, and was brilliant with his runs into the box to get us goals. Willock may be a late bloomer, but he will get there.
Thanks Eris. It will indeed be hard for Joe to force himself in to the team. The way he performed among the likes of Pepe, Ceballos and Willian, all regulars in the first team, makes me now believe he isn’t far away from PL action.
Just want to tell my friends over there…
Announced 10 minutes ago– the US have just returned to a semblance of sanity.
A very happy day. 😁
Great news, JW. I realise that not all BKers may be happy with this result and I respect that totally. But in the Total household this is being celebrated big style! 😁 🍾 🍾 🍾
Brilliant post T. I thoroughly enjoyed it….
I have not been sold on Joe’s football instincts previously when played as a more generic midfielder. But if he is someone who can flourish in a new role, I’d be excited to see it. Just as I was suggesting for Pepe yesterday.
I do need to see more skill and decision making from Willock, because I wouldn’t want to be dependent on “the coordinated chaos”, — that to me seems too much like luck, but I’m open to a little bit of that. It’s always good to not be too predictable.
Cheers J 😎
We need a player who tries to crack defences in the box sometimes, and I thought Joe did that very well on Thursday. And that is what I meant with organised chaos. Joe was tasked to take them on, I thought.
Thanks J and Eris for your contributions to the post today.
New Post 🙂
Congratulations, jw1. I (we all) had an idea how you received DJT’s ascent to the Presidency and so, how you must have endured the last 4 years.
With Joe Biden, I believe it is normal service resuming for the US.
Thanks Eris. Though there are officially 74 days before the inauguration. As is the norm here, a Biden transition team is already in place. First and foremost, time for serious focus on this pandemic. Biden expressed as much tonight in his formal acceptance speech.
Ozil wasn’t doing it in training hence – he doesn’t play one name “lacazette ” ?????????????
Given our current state of play, specifically the dreadful attack, I do believe Willock has earned a shot in the league as our advanced midfielder. I’ve been critical of Joe in past seasons, but I’ve seen a different player this season – one that is more comfortable in taking initiative and wanting to take control of a game.
On arguments that it’s too soon to start Willock in the league, I’d point to the fact that he’s 21 and has gained some PL experience in the past couple years albeit never for sustained, long stretches. I’d also highlight the fact that Saka translated his EL success quite seamlessly to the PL. While I don’t think Joe will have the same type of impact as Saka, he has a skill set we desperately need right now (making runs into the box, goals from midfield and can help close that massive gap between our midfielders and front three).
If Joe is to get a chance in the PL, he will need a bit of a leash and a run of games to see if he can be that difference maker for us. However, it is also up to Arteta to adjust the rigid attacking structure to put our attacking players in a position to succeed. Otherwise, it won’t matter what players we put into the starting lineup, they’ll all likely continue to be plagued by the same issues (namely static play and often receiving the ball with their backs to goal).