Former England and Liverpool midfielder John Barnes believes that Joe Willock will “feature more heavily” for Arsenal next season following the success of his loan spell at Newcastle United in recent months.
Willock joined the Magpies on loan at the very end of the January transfer window in a bid to help Steve Bruce’s side avoid relegation to the Championship and secure some much-needed first-team football.
The Gunners academy graduate, who will turn 22 in August, made the perfect start to his temporary stay at St James’ Park, scoring the winner in a thrilling 3-2 win over Southampton on his debut.
The midfielder, who has made a total of 78 appearances during his Arsenal career, then went on a run of six games without a goal, before ending the campaign by scoring in seven successive Premier League matches. Willock scored in consecutive games against Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Liverpool, Leicester City, Manchester City, Sheffield United and Fulham, ensuring the Magpies ended the campaign with form in their sails.
His exploits at St James’ Park have seen no shortage of Arsenal supporters call for Willock to be given a chance to prove his worth at the Emirates Stadium next season, especially when midfield is an area that Mikel Arteta – the Gunners boss – wants to bolster.
And Barnes is in agreement, predicting that he will become a regular fixture in Arteta’s plans.
“I watched him a couple of times for Arsenal before he went to Newcastle and every time he started or came off the bench he’s done well and I’ve always liked him and they like him a lot,” Barnes told bettingodds.com.
“He needed the experience and he wanted to play so it was a great move for both himself and Newcastle by heading there on loan but next year I think he will feature more heavily at Arsenal.
“Unless he had such a good time at Newcastle that he wants to stay there permanently rather than stay at Arsenal, but I still think he can give it a go at Arsenal because Arteta is playing youth.
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“You have Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka for example and Willock will be given time and support in that team so even though things went really well for him at Newcastle, I do believe that he will stay at Arsenal.”
At the age of 21, Willock has time on his side in a bid to force his way into the picture in north London and emulate the success both Smith Rowe and Saka have enjoyed this season.
With Willock having proven that he can offer an attacking threat from midfield as well, it may force Arteta into rethinking his transfer plans as far as his search for new midfielders is concerned.