Arsenal’s injury problems this season have certainly been frustrating, but one upside from the situation is that an increasing amount of youngsters have been provided with an opportunity to train with the first-team.
This campaign there has been at least one youth prospect involved in almost every first-team training session, with the prospects benefitting immensely from the opportunity to test themselves against experienced stars.
One player who has been called upon more than most for those sessions is Chris Willock, with the winger being rewarded for his consistent performances at U21 level this season.
Excellent at taking players on and intelligent with regards to deciding when to pass, Willock has already featured for the first-team in friendly fixtures and last month came close to making the bench for the Premier League game at home to Manchester City.
On several occasions recently manager Arsene Wenger has mentioned Willock when talking about the youngsters deemed to be closest to the first-team squad, and it seems that the 17-year-old will receive his opportunity to impress in due course.
Breaking into the first-team squad in the long term is certainly a difficult task, but, although success is far from guaranteed, the England youth international certainly possesses the determination to succeed.
Wenger admitted that, given that every fixture is of such importance for the first-team, it is difficult to give players such as Willock a run-out at present.
His time will come eventually, and until then Willock will look to continue to impress for Arsenal at U21 level, having scored two goals in eight appearances for Steve Gatting’s side this campaign.
At the start of the season Willock was unable to command a regular place in the U21 starting line-up given Arsenal’s wealth of attacking options at that level, but his subsequent performances have seen him establish himself as one of the key members of a side that is on track for promotion back to the top division of second-string football.
Although he isn’t a frequent goalscorer, Willock’s ability to cause problems for opposing defenders with his neat footwork has earmarked him as one of Arsenal’s most intriguing talents.
He will have to be patient for his chance to shine, with Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide currently ahead of him in the pecking order at the club, but Willock’s opportunity is surely not too far away.
Willock’s younger brother Joe is also part of the Arsenal academy and is another interesting talent. For now, though, the limelight is on Chris, who is edging ever closer to making his competitive debut for the Gunners.