Joe Willock looking to continue progression at Emirates Cup

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In the final U23 game of last season Arsenal took on Manchester United at Emirates Stadium, with Chris and Joe Willock on the same side.

On Saturday, with Arsenal facing Benfica in the Emirates Cup, there is a possibility that the pair could be up against eachother, and the fact that they could even be involved at all is testament to the impact that they have made in the ensuing period.

Chris Willock left Arsenal for Benfica when his contract expired at the end of last month yet it was initially anticipated that the winger would play for the Portuguese club’s B team.

Such has been his progress, Willock has trained regularly with Benfica’s senior squad and is now in contention to feature for Rui Vitoria’s side at the Emirates Cup.

It is Joe Willock’s development, though, which has been more staggering.

The younger Willock had long been earmarked as an exciting talent but there appeared a possibility that he too could leave Arsenal on a free transfer when his previous deal expired in June.

However, he elected to stay with the Gunners and, so far at least, he has benefited from that decision having produced some encouraging performances during the club’s pre-season tour of Australia and China.

Although he had previously mainly been deployed further up the pitch, Joe Willock has been used as a deep-lying midfielder by Arsene Wenger and he has adapted to the requirements of that position extremely well.

During the aforementioned pre-season games he snapped into tackles with regularity and also burst forwards when the opportunity presented itself, frequently getting into the opposing penalty area.

A skillful player, Willock has also become significantly stronger physically over the past couple of seasons and now appears ready in that regard for senior football, even though his game time this season is likely to be restricted to a few cup appearances.

For much of last season Willock was with the U18s and sometimes wasn’t even able to command a starting berth at that age group.

Now, though, he is very much on the fringes of the first-team, joining Reiss Nelson in being one of the youngsters closest to making the breakthrough.

The Emirates Cup represents another chance for Joe Willock to showcase his credentials, this time in front of the home crowd. Being able to play against his brother would make the occasion extra special.

Jeorge Bird is the author of http://arsenalyouth.wordpress.com/, follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird

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