Some players just fall under the radar.
Some players just get labelled incorrectly.
Both apply to Joe Willock.
The 21 year old midfielder has been maligned by large portions of our fanbase for a supposed lack of tactical awareness. Willock has been likened to a headless chicken, running around with zero sense in positioning, expending energy like it’s going out of fashion.
However, a certain Thierry Henry spoke of his own early career during a documentary covering his journey from start to finish – and he said of his first club, Monaco and his early international career that he used to run constantly, and found he didn’t have the energy to affect games later on toward the end of the match.
And let’s not forget – that the accusation toward Willock is absolute tosh.
Four goal involvements in just seven games for Willock so far this season is the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s take into account the stop-start nature of his appearances in an Arsenal shirt. One game he will be a late substitute in the Premier League, fast forward four days he will be in central midfield.
But the massive positive for Willock is that he may just have found his best position.
Adaptability is a huge plus when you’re a youngster. Just ask Bukayo Saka. The winger stepped in at wing-back, impressed and has taken his chance. Now he’s a full England international.
The same goes for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but there comes a time when a player must choose a spot – or at least establish an improvement over one position to the next.
And Willock seemed to find his niche in our win over Molde in the Europa League.
Yes, we have to take into consideration the opposition. The Norwegians did not present the hardest test we will face, but Willock still excelled and he did so with a vastly changed lineup. He played pretty much alongside Eddie Nketiah in our frontline and he was everywhere, effective in our final third, stretching their defence and everything ran through him.
Just imagine if were to play the same role alongside the likes of Aubameyang, Pepe or Lacazette.
Willock signposted his future career as an attacking midfielder who can play further forward if the need arises. His adaptability is still there, but it is his ability to sniff out danger and capitalise is perhaps his greatest strength.
Given the lack of pre-season and the glut of fixtures – Willock may well get his chance to enjoy a run in his preferred position – and leave his mark even better than he has done previously.