With Callum Wilson expected to be out of action until October, according to The Athletic, Newcastle United’s need for Joe Willock to rekindle the form he showed while on loan at St James’ Park from Arsenal during the second half of last season has become that much greater.
It was eight goals from 14 Premier League appearances for the Magpies that convinced Mike Ashley to part ways with £25m (Sky Sports) to secure the midfielder’s signature.
But the 22-year-old is yet to get off the mark since joining the club permanently.
With Newcastle’s number nine on the sidelines, if Steve Bruce’s side are going to climb the table, then Willock will have to start producing the goods alongside Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin.
Was Bielsa right to walk away from Willock?
Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa seemingly felt that Newcastle paid too much, according to The Athletic, for Willock by splashing out £25million for him.
But the Argentine did spend a similar amount of money for Daniel James, despite Willock scoring more Premier League goals than the former Manchester United winger.
James fits the profile of player Bielsa wants. He is lightening fast, hard-working and puts the team first.
Time will tell whether Bielsa made the right call, but the fact of the matter is that Leeds and Newcastle are both struggling ahead of Friday night’s clash.
What is Willock doing differently?
Unlike last season, Willock comes back to St James’ Park with a massive transfer fee on his shoulders and after his blistering form during his loan spell, there is a weight of expectancy.
Such impressive form last season wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by his peers, so he isn’t being afforded the same time and space and teams are acknowledging the threat he poses.
So far after three games this campaign, Willock isn’t having the same attacking influence on games. Last year he was averaging 1.4 shots and 0.6 key passes per game, whereas currently he averages 0.7 shots and 0.3 key passes per game (WhoScored).
One area of his game that has dramatically changed compared to last year as it stands is his tackling output. Last season, Willock averaged 1.9 tackles per game, currently he’s averaging 4.7 tackles per game, which is the most in the Premier League.
Against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday, Willock made 9 tackles, six more than any other Newcastle player and five more than tackling specialist Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Willock could have helped his side take the lead on Saturday if instead of blazing over the bar he squared the ball to Joelinton.
With games against Leeds, Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers to come, Willock will be hoping to register his first goalscoring contribution of the season and help his team secure their first three points of the campaign.
Bruce has shown a lot of faith in Willock, making it abundantly clear in the summer transfer window hoe much he wanted him before Newcastle eventually signed him.
The St. James’ Park faithful love and adore the former Arsenal midfielder, and they expect more from him.
Willock is contributing to this Newcastle side, but not currently in the way fans imagined. He wasn’t signed for £25m to win tackles. The large fee was paid for him to win games.