Arsenal boss Unai Emery has backed Joe Willock to fill the void left by Aaron Ramsey and believes the midfielder has limitless potential.
Willock, 20, has developed well under Emery’s tutelage over the last year and has scored six goals in 15 games under the Spaniard – including the third in a 4-0 Europa League win over Standard Liege on Thursday.
The England Under-21 international has caught the attention of senior boss Gareth Southgate and replaced Mesut Ozil in last season’s Europa League final defeat at the hands of Chelsea.
The Gunners lost Ramsey on a free transfer to Juventus this summer, 12 months after releasing Jack Wilshere to join West Ham.
Emery feels Willock, who has yet to establish himself in the first team, can now rise to the challenge of replacing the popular midfield pair at the Emirates Stadium.
“Willock started the pre-season with us last year, I didn’t give him more minutes but he was with us in every game, working in training, playing matches in the cup and at the end of the season,” the Gunners head coach said.
“He deserved to start this season with the first team and with us.
“My decision was after I saw him the last two months of last season working with us, his really big challenge was that Jack Wilshere left here, Aaron Ramsey left and he had to take that opportunity to be with us.
“The last months of last year was the moment I spoke with him, and said: ‘For you it is a big challenge in the new season to do differently and really show us you can take their position in this squad’.”
While Willock has had to be patient for a run in the Arsenal team, Emery has seen first-hand how much he has progressed in recent times – and feels he can push on even further if he keeps working hard.
“We need to have different options in different positions in midfield,” he replied when asked if Willock was unfortunate not to have played more matches.
“But Willock is really, really improving a lot – sometimes by being in the starting XI or off the bench with good impact.
“I told him he is improving but he needs to not stop that improvement, we are working with him to improve even more.
“But, if his progression keeps going the way it is going right now, I don’t know when he will stop and how far he can go.
“He deserves us continuing to give him chances and really now we can say he is with us, in the squad and the first XI because he deserves it.
“His progress is a very good example as a positive to many others.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Know more about Sport360 Application
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is hoping the midweek hammering by Bayern Munich can have a similar effect to a heavy defeat he endured as a player.
Pochettino presided over the heaviest loss of his managerial career when the German champions romped to a 7-2 victory in the Champions League – the first time Spurs have conceded seven goals at home in their 137-year history.
It has deepened the sense that they are in the midst of a crisis after a rocky start to the season and has left the Argentinian fending off speculation regarding his future ahead of Saturday lunchtime’s Premier League visit to Brighton.
But Pochettino is hoping the loss can galvanise his squad in the same way his Newell’s Old Boys side were in the 1990s after a 6-0 loss in the Copa Libertadores.
The Argentinian club, managed at the time by Marcelo Bielsa, shook off that loss and went on to reach the final of the tournament and also won the domestic league.
“We played the first game of the season, and we won,” Pochettino recalled. “Second game was Copa Libertadores against San Lorenzo – 6-0 at home.
“It was really, really, really painful. Similar to Bayern Munich.
“But that season, we finished by winning the Premier League in Argentina six months later – and even reached the final of the Copa Libertadores, only losing to Sao Paulo on penalties after a replay.
“In six months, we changed completely the perception. Sometimes this type of situation makes you stronger and, of course, better.
“That is the most important thing. We need to be clever and learn from this type of situation.
“But we will have to do it in a different way for me now. That was 27 years ago – now it is a different era, a different period of people. But of course, it was an experience.
“I was 19 years old then and how I perceived the situation was different to how I see it now.
“But I remember Bielsa talking to us individually and talking to the collective, making changes and slowly turning around the situation.
“Football changes, society chances, but the principle and psychology is still there 30 years later.”
Several players spoke of their embarrassment after the Bayern Munich game, with Jan Vertonghen saying he was “ashamed”.
Pochettino insists that he and his squad, who have been accused of no longer playing for their manager, are on the same side and are determined to bounce back.
He added: “We all think the same. We were talking before training, during training, after training and at lunchtime, and we all feel the same.
“It’s so painful. You cannot be happy with that defeat. And we are trying to move on.
“They want another opportunity to play and to replay and rebuild the confidence we need to win games.
“But most important is that we know that for 30 to 35 minutes in the first half was our best period in the season.
“One bad result is not going to change our plans. We are so strong in our mentality and ideas.
“In football, you don’t win and you need to assess and analyse everything.
“You will try to find a way to improve but you stick with your ideas and work hard.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Kieran Tierney insists he made the hardest decision of his life to leave Celtic for Arsenal, but is now fully committed to helping the Gunners back into the Champions League as he shuns the bright lights of London.
The 22-year-old left-back had to wait for his Arsenal debut following his summer move as a niggling groin problem left him on the sidelines.
He made his bow in the Carabao Cup win over Nottingham Forest last week before playing all 90 minutes of the 4-0 Europa League victory at home to Standard Liege on Thursday night.
Tierney was one of many bright sparks for head coach Unai Emery as Gabriel Martinelli hit a three-minute brace before Joe Willock and Dani Ceballos completed the scoring on an easy night for the hosts.
Having won eight major honours during his time at Celtic Park, Tierney is no stranger to silverware and is keen to reach similar heights now he has moved south of the border.
“We have got the potential, we have got the ability,” he replied when asked if Arsenal could break into the top four this season.
“You want to win trophies, every footballer does. But it is one game at a time for me. I am just here, I have played two games and one 90 minutes. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I think the club is a massive club and it deserves to be in the Champions League. We know the ambitions and the aims of the club and supporters. We are all in it together and hopefully we can do that.
Great night! Thanks again for all your support 👊🏻🔴⚪ pic.twitter.com/fdnT1fy7eG— Kieran Tierney (@kierantierney1) October 3, 2019
“Coming here the standard has been great for me to learn off. It has taken me a few weeks to get up to standard and scratch with the speed of the other boys, they are world class players. For me to learn off them is brilliant.
“It was a great feeling for me, but it was the hardest decision of my life as well to leave the club I had been at for 15 years. But as I say, I am delighted to be here.
“It is a massive club and everybody knows the style of Arsenal, the way they play. You learn from a young age that they play total football, the way I like to play.
“It is an absolute honour that they really liked me enough to come and get me. It is a privilege to play for the club.”
Tierney has a reputation as someone who will shun any spotlight pointed in their direction and, having been part of a close-knit family unit back home, he admits it has been hard to adjust off the pitch.
“It is a massive change for me,” he said.
“I was a home boy, I always stayed with my parents, and I’ve come down here to a different country, a massive city.
“But so far everybody at the club has helped me settle and I am very grateful for that.
“I need to cook every night so I am learning. I will get there. People say what’s the city like? I have no idea, I’ve never been in.
“I train, I work hard, I go home and recover and train the next day. It is just a simple life and I just put everything into football and all I can to just try and reap the rewards.”
Tierney was asked by new head coach Unai Emery not to travel to join up with the Scotland squad next week, given he is only just back from a groin problem that also plagued his final days at Celtic.
It remains to be seen if he will be handed his Premier League debut when Bournemouth visit the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon as he is gradually phased into the Arsenal side.
Provided by Press Association Sports