Mike Ashley must approve a summer swoop for Newcastle United to retain Joe Willock amid doubt in the midfielder’s future at Arsenal.
What’s the word?
According to the Sunday Mirror (4th April 2021, p63), the Toon are keen to strike a deal for Willock to stay at St. James’ Park for next season after being impressed by his performances to date.
Willock moved to the north-east in a half-season loan deal on Deadline Day of the winter market, and hit the ground running with a goal on debut against Southampton.
The 21-year-old has established a key role for himself under Steve Bruce after struggling for minutes in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium this season, and came off the bench for his eighth outing on Sunday before striking a vital equaliser in the 85th minute.
Willock’s goal helped Newcastle to establish a three-point lead over 18th-placed Fulham, who have played a game more, and could help to determine where he will play next season.
Arsenal are open to sending Willock out on loan for the 2021/22 campaign but only to a Premier League club, and may even sell the £14.5m-rated star for the right offer.
On the other hand, the Magpies are only said to be interested in another loan deal, which may prove problematic in any attempts to retain the England U21 international – who Lee Clark claims offers the Magpies “something completely different”.
Should Newcastle retain Arsenal’s Willock?
If Arsenal are open to sending Willock out on loan again next season and Newcastle are keen to keep the midfielder at St. James’ Park, Ashley must reach for the chequebook and strike a deal with Mikel Arteta’s side for the £20k-per-week maestro.
And even if the Gunners prefer to sell their academy graduate, Ashley should not baulk at approving a bid as Willock has shown throughout his brief time at the club that he can deliver the box-to-box impact that he was signed to provide.
Sunday’s draw with Tottenham Hotspur was the first time that Willock has not started a game for Newcastle since arriving on Tyneside but proved his importance to the side with a vital late strike.
Getting forward and offering an outlet in the attack was exactly what Toon icon Alan Shearer felt Bruce brought him on for, telling Match of the Day: “Willock did a good job when he came on, that’s what his job was, to get into the box and finish things off.”
Willock now ranks joint-third with Allan Saint-Maximin, Jamaal Lascelles, Joelinton and Jeff Hendrick for goals scored in the Premier League by Newcastle players this season – only Callum Wilson (10) and Miguel Almiron (4) have more.
The Gunners graduate also ranks first for average number of successful (2.3) and attempted (5.3) tackles per top-flight fixture by a Magpies player this term, while boasting the joint-most interceptions (1.8) with Isaac Hayden and sixth-most key passes (0.8), per WhoScored.
Ashley would be naïve to pass on a deal that sees that level of impact stay at the club when a possible transfer is on the table, as he would likely have to bankroll a pursuit for a replacement in the off-season should Willock head back to north London and Newcastle remain in the Premier League.