Arsenal travelled to Ukraine on Thursday evening for a Europa League fixture against a largely unknown Vorskla Poltava.
The Europa League oftens throws up fixtures for English clubs which make supporters think one thing: three points in the bag. Based on a distinct lack of knowledge on the opposition and the fact they are seldom seen on the European stage, supporters believe they have ample reason to expect nothing less than a routine victory.
That very mindset can produce fatal feelings of complacency, but Arsenal didn’t allow their modest opponents to capitalise on any mental fragility last night, despite fielding a weakened side.
With one eye on the North London derby this Sunday Unai Emery decided to rest a handful of key first-team players, paving the way for Eddie Nketiah, Emile Smith-Rowe and Joe Willock all to make the starting eleven.
Both the former and the latter managed to get themselves on the scoresheet, with Willock opening up his body to curl home the killer third goal while boasting a technique which reminded some Arsenal supporters of a certain Thierry Henry.
Willock is certainly no striker but his dynamic style of play could provide Emery with a valuable weapon to exploit in the coming years.
However, despite being just 19-years-of-age, Martin Keown believes that Willock is ready for the step up to senior level, and he made that point abundantly clear in the aftermath of proceedings.
Martin Keown on Joe Willock: “I’ve been really impressed with this young man. He should be playing first-team football whether it be at Arsenal, or somewhere else. He’s now reached that stage where he’s going to have to be allowed to play football, he’s been outstanding.” pic.twitter.com/RpAtdobDK0
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) November 29, 2018
One might point towards Matteo Guendouzi’s involvement this season as a reason to suggest that Willock should also be given a similar level of opportunity, based on the consideration that both players are 19-year-old and operate in similar positions.
But Emery clearly has a preference for the summer recruit and that is a notable worry for Willock as he looks to make the next step in his career, so he would be wise to consider a temporary loan deal in the January window.
Whatever Willock decides it’s fair to say that Keown is absolutely right to suggest he is ready for first-team football based on his performance last night, but it seems unlikely he will earn his chance in north London anytime soon.
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