All Guns Blazing: Could Chris Willock benefit from Arsenal’s injury problems?

Arsenal's Chris Willock. Picture: PA/John Walton

Arsenal's Chris Willock. Picture: PA/John Walton - Credit: Empics Sports Photography Ltd.

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, youth expert Jeorge Bird looks at one creative star of the AFC academy.

Arsenal’s injury problems appear to be never-ending, but one positive to take from the situation is that an increasing amount of talented youngsters are being selected to train with the first-team squad on a regular basis.

In the case of Chris Willock, his inclusion is fully merited, with the 17-year-old winger having been in tremendous form of late at various youth levels.

An intelligent dribbler, Willock featured for the Arsenal first team in a friendly when he was just 16 and he was also involved in pre-season preparations prior to this campaign.

Since then he has had to bide his time for further involvement with the senior squad, with the likes of Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Iwobi being chosen instead – but Willock’s time to shine could be just around the corner, particularly with Arsenal’s injury problems showing little sign of abating.

Willock is often the primary source of creativity for Arsenal at youth level as he makes the most of his splendid technique and precise passing to prise open opposing defences.

The England youth international has also developed physically of late and is now far stronger than he was previously.

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Willock, whose younger brother Joe is also part of the Arsenal academy, has long been earmarked for a bright future and so far this season he has certainly lived up to the hype.

A loan spell, possibly at a Championship or League One club, could be on the cards at some point next season. But for now Willock finds himself on the periphery of the Arsenal first-team squad and it would only require a couple of further injuries to attacking players for him to be considered for inclusion on the bench.

All the while, he will continue to work arduously as Arsenal’s youngsters fight for success on three fronts this campaign. They are on the brink of qualifying for the last-16 stage of the Uefa Youth League, while the club’s Under-18s progressed to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup with a victory over West Bromwich Albion last week.

Perhaps most significantly of all, Arsenal’s Under-21s have started the campaign in fine form and will be determined to regain promotion to the top tier of second-string football, which would enable them to compete against more challenging sides next season.

Follow Jeorge on Twitter @jeorgebird

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