Joe Willock ticks all the boxes
Joe Willock has gone under the radar.
Even last week when he was Newcastle’s best player (in my opinion) and got two assists, Miguel Almiron’s brace of goals which included a goal of the season contender, still meant that Joe Willock was little talked about.
The thing is, Eddie Howe has massively improved the former Arsenal midfielder, something which has largely been lost I think this season.
The Joe Willock story at Newcastle United is overall, a very strange one, so maybe no surprise.
To begin with, he was Steve Bruce’s last massive piece of extraordinary luck.
Signed right at the end of the January 2021 transfer window on loan, simply because he was cheap and available, Bruce hit the jackpot.
Even though clueless as to how to use him and indeed leaving him out of the starting eleven, Joe Willock still scored a remarkable eight goals in only eleven PL starts and three sub appearances in the second half of that 2020/21 season.
Joe Willock scoring for fun despite Steve Bruce, not because of him. Right time right place, Willock scored his eight goals from only 17 chances / shots.
Not surprisingly this was unsustainable…but signing for Newcastle United permanently, Mike Ashley waiting right until the 2021/22 season was kicking off, thus ruining any chance Joe Willock had of starting that season with a flyer.
Everything was a mess at the start of that season under Bruce and Ashley, Joe Willock and many other Newcastle players suffering as a result.
Eddie Howe came in though and along with every other player, Willock improved. Even so, only the two goals, in consecutive away matches, the 2-0 at Brentford and 1-1 at West Ham last season. From 29 Premier League appearances last season, 24 starts and five as a sub.
This season, Eddie Howe has introduced a far more attacking strategy and style, despite injuries to key players.
Joe Willock has been one of those at the heart of the new high pressing, ambitious Howe style, the midfielder starting all eight PL games.
He has been getting better all the time, the underlying stats excellent, number of touches in the opposition box and so on.
That final part just not quite there though, turning getting into good positions and great approach work into direct goal involvement.
Incredibly, the first 50 Premier League appearances for Newcastle had produced zero Joe Willock assists.
That changed last Saturday, two coming along at once in his 51st.
The one that should have been a goal but Wilson touching it in on the line, then an excellent ball for Almiron’s second.
It has been coming though and two games earlier he would have scored if not for that push in the back against Palace. The ridiculous / scandalous VAR / referee decision ending up not giving the goal or a penalty!
I have a very strong feeling that the dam has burst now, the two assists just the start of regular direct goal threats and end product.
Brentford could well be the start of that this afternoon…
Eddie Howe talking about Joe Willock ahead of the Brentford match – 7 October 2022:
“There is a huge amount to come from Joe.
“He has all the tools.
“Athletically, he is very good, technically he is good too.
“Also, as he showed when he first came to the club, Joe has an eye for goal.
“We have not seen that fall into place yet this season…but I believe it will.
“He was very unlucky last week because if Callum Wilson hadn’t tapped that one in on the goal line, it was probably his goal.
“He is getting into all the right areas.
“I think he is capable of being that goalscoring midfielder.
“That is naturally what Joe sees himself as being, which is hugely important.
“At Fulham he was everywhere on the pitch, in the wide areas a lot, as well as in the central areas.
“Joe is an all-round midfielder but he definitely wants to score goals and will be frustrated that he has not taken one of the chances he has had (this season).”
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