Could Joe Willock be Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey replacement?
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
When it was announced that Aaron Ramsey would be leaving Arsenal for Juventus this summer, it was clear that replacing the Welshman would be one of Unai Emery’s biggest off season challenges. But, does he already have the man to fill Ramsey’s boots?
Academy graduate Joe Willock was named in the starting XI to face Burnley in the final Premier League game of the season, and he shone, showing some striking similarities to Ramsey.
Willock played in a role just behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, similar to how Emery has used Ramsey this season, most notably in away games or on big European nights, where his energy and eye for goal have come to the fore.
The Englishman showed glimpses of that ability at Turf Moor on Sunday, driving Arsenal forward and linking well with Aubameyang, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Among his highlights was a powerful run which took him from deep inside his own half to the edge of the Burnley box - riding a number of robust challenges - and an effort which curled narrowly past the post after a sharp turn 18 yards from goal.
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The 19-year-old has been transformed into a goal scoring midfielder under the tutelage of Arsenal U23 boss and Gunners legend Freddie Ljungberg, bagging 12 in 19 appearances across four different competitions, including three goals in just five first-team games.
Whether Willock can become a regular goal scorer in senior football is yet to be seen, but the signs looking promising. Remember, it was a role that Ramsey took time to grow into, failing to net more than five times in a season before his 16-goal haul in 2013/14.
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While he may not have the same experience as Ramsey, Willock - having come through the club's Hale End Academy - knows what it means to play for The Arsenal and wear the shirt with pride.
It's the attitude that Emery will be looking for, as losing the quality of Ramsey also comes with the added disappointment of losing a player who knows what it means to play for the Gunners.
Emery was asked about Willock's display at Turf Moor after Sunday's win, and it was interesting to hear the Arsenal boss mention the departing Welsh midfielder in his response.
"We need to use the young players," said Emery.
"Aaron Ramsey started playing here when he was young and every player can first take chances and after use these chances to get improvement to be with us.
"Today for example Willock and Eddie Nketiah played 60 minutes and 30 minutes and used the match to help us with a good match for both.
"Our responsibility is to give them chances and find the best performance as a team.
"Young players at Arsenal in the past and present need to have the opportunity to be with us everyday in training and after they can show us if they can play with us in matches."
While Willock may not have the big game experience that Ramsey has, and still be a raw talent with potential to fill, that will hopefully come with time and opportunities. Emery's reputation for blooding young talent is also a promising sign for the 19-year-old.
Impressive displays coupled with Arsenal's reported transfer budget of £40 million will only help Willock press his claim as Ramsey's replacement. The time truly is now for promising youngster.