Martin Keown believes Joe Willock may not get a chance to impress in the Premier League unless Mikel Arteta moves away from his preferred formation which relies on just two central midfielders.
The England Under-21 international has impressed in the Europa League so far this season and after starring in last week’s win over Dundalk he played a pivotoal role in Thursday’s ultimately convincing 4-1 thrashing of Molde.
After falling behind to Martin Ellingsen’s shock early opener, Willock helped turn the match on its head forcing own goals from Kristoffer Haugen and Sheriff Sinyan either side of half-time.
Willock then capped another eye-catching display with the final goal of the night, latching onto Nicolas Pepe’s pass and rifling the ball past stranded goalkeeper Andreas Linde.
Arsenal recorded their first league win over Manchester United at Old Trafford since 2006 last Sunday with Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey dominating the midfield.
And despite making an increasingly strong claim for regular first team inclusion, Keown believes the academy graduate, who is yet to play a single minute of Premier League football this term, is not yet ready to hold down a role in his manager’s favoured formation.
He told BT Sport: ‘I just think at the moment the thing that is going against him is the shape. They want to play two with Elneny and Partey in that midfield. Then Arsenal play with a five and it looks like those two look strong enough to control that midfield.
‘If he wants a third player and he wants to change that system again then Willock has to come into his thinking. Whereas before that, no. But I think now he’s played his way into that mindset for the manager.
‘If he wants to change that system again to play three midfielders he’s got to be one of the first on the list. Arteta is trying to build a new culture and what better way to do it than with young players through the academy who understand what it means to be an Arsenal player to come through the system.
‘You’re young, you dream of being an Arsenal player. I came through with the likes of Adams and Rocastle I think there’s a love for the club and it’s nice to be able to tease that out keep that within the group.
‘Willcok, we have to be able to work out a pathway for him to be able to get into that first team. If he has to go out on loan then fair enough but for now he’s not far away from getting it right.’
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