Transfer news: Who could be on the move this summer?
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Joe Willock should give Mikel Arteta at least six months to find him a regular spot in the Arsenal side before pursuing a move away from the Emirates Stadium, according to Gunners icon Paul Merson. Willock established himself as one of the Premier League’s in-form players during an impressive loan spell at Newcastle United, scoring eight goals from 14 matches in the second half of the campaign.
He struggled to hold down a first-team berth at Arsenal prior to his January exit, with the majority of his action limited to Europa League group stage appearances.
The 21-year-old played just 234 league minutes before joining the Magpies, where he emerged as a crucial member of Steve Bruce’s side, becoming the youngest player to score in seven consecutive Premier League matches in the process.
Willock’s contributions played a pivotal role in securing the club’s top-flight status for another season, with the Arsenal loanee winning plenty of points thanks to a number of decisive last-gasp goals.
He scored late equalisers against Tottenham and Liverpool and found the back of the net to seal victories over Southampton, West Ham United, Leicester City and Sheffield United respectively.
Bruce has already confirmed his plan to sign Willock on a permanent basis this summer, with the 60-year-old a huge admirer of the England youth international.
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However, with Arsenal losing Martin Odegaard after the conclusion of his loan spell in north London, it remains to be seen whether Arteta will be inclined to hand Willock the opportunity to fill the Norwegian playmaker’s boots.
Merson, who scored 58 goals for the Gunners during an 11-year spell at the club, has suggested that the midfielder should be patient with Arteta until at least January before seeking a move away.
The 53-year-old told Sky Sports that Willock’s form on Tyneside warrants an extended run in the Arsenal team, with the club lacking a creative spark after Odegaard’s departure.
Merson explained: “Three weeks ago maybe, you’re looking and thinking: ‘What’s he gone there for?’
“He’s sub for Newcastle now, and now he’s just beat the record [youngest player to score in seven consecutive games]. If he comes back now, he’s got to be in the team.
“No disrespect to Newcastle, but Newcastle are not above Arsenal and we’ve got to be honest with that. I would come back and have a go.
“I would 100 per cent come back and say: ‘You know what, I want to give it a go at Arsenal’. And if he isn’t in the team in six months, your agent goes in, or he goes in and goes: ‘You know what, I’m never gonna make it at Arsenal!'”
Meanwhile, Arteta recently claimed that Willock will remain an Arsenal player next season, suggesting that his loan move may have been the catalyst to kickstart his career in north London.
“For sure because he’s got a contract and that’s going to be here, that’s for sure,” the Gunners boss told reporters earlier this month.
“I am really happy that things have gone so well because of the potential that he has. I think it was great for him to go away and have a different experience.
“He has grabbed that opportunity in a really positive and remarkable way and he will come back to us, we will have a conversation with him and plan the next years for him. And he got the responsibility and the test of going to Newcastle to help them get where they want to.
“I spoke with the coaching staff there and they are extremely happy because he was a key part of contributing to get the objectives that they had. That’s a real positive for him.”
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