Looking at the Emirates Stadium during Arsenal’s clash with Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, you would have been mistaken if you thought it was an under-23s game.
After the 2-2 draw against Southampton, there were more empty seats than people for the game against the Germans, and Unai Emery can’t have been surprised.
Youngsters such as Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka were brought into the starting line up and they nearly had the perfect impact in the opening 15 minutes.
Saka whipped in an inch-perfect cross, but it was Willock who got in the way of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who headed wide with the goal begging.
After a number of chances for the home side, Arsenal went into half time with the lead, and it was Aubameyang who got the goal in added time.
Many Arsenal fans took to Twitter to react to the first-half showing of Willock, with the majority not happy with the 20-year-old.
@Joewillock you’re terrible ???
— Conor Netherway (@ConorNetherway) November 28, 2019
Willock, Saka, Smith-Rowe, and a few others are all over hyped.
Overhyping them from early days and when they don’t turn up, Arsenal fans act shocked..
— Charlie (@CharlCharr) November 28, 2019
— MAC (@maccymac87) November 28, 2019
I know Joe Willock is young but he plays like a 10yr old. So childish.
— CARTEWEH (@carteweh) November 28, 2019
Willock refuses to go into any challenge. He keeps playing like this and he'll never make it. Well, he might at Arsenal, but won't for any decent team.
— Daniel Romanello (@Dannyromanello) November 28, 2019
Some Gunners’ fans decided to just react to Willock’s missed opportunity midway through the half, one which many fans couldn’t believe he didn’t leave it to Aubameyang.
Willock must be crazy?
— EmeryOut (@SadamFuka_AFC) November 28, 2019
Willock missing a sitter!! ? #AFC
— Gunners.com (@Gunnersc0m) November 28, 2019
Willock. Allow Auba man ???
— 666?? (@666_AFC) November 28, 2019
Does Willock deserve the criticism?
To give a simple answer, not at all.
Willock has been a breath of fresh air since coming into the first team in all competitions, with the young midfielder not afraid to leave it all on the pitch when some of his teammates are being questioned for their attitude.
Granit Xhaka was slammed by fans recently for his performance against Crystal Palace, so when they have a youngster such as Willock giving his everything, maybe they need to look at the bigger picture.
The 20-year-old is capable of getting forward as well as putting in big tackles when tracking back, and that is what Emery has been missing in the heart of his side.
Willock has averaged 2.3 tackles per game in the Europa League according to WhoScored, as well as having 1.8 shots on goal – stats that prove he is the all-round midfielder that Arsenal are crying out for in the Premier League right now.