Arsenal must be prepared to mourn the departure of Joe Willock just like the Gunners have done with Emiliano Martinez amid strong parallels drawn between the pair’s exits.
Newcastle United have prised the Hale End graduate away from the Emirates in a deal worth in excess of £20 million on a six-year contract, following his impressive spell on loan that reignited the Magpies’ Premier League survival hopes.
Willock, who scored eight goals across 14 games for Steve Bruce’s side upon his January arrival, arrives in Tyneside with a hero’s status laying the foundations to host Newcastle’s potentially exciting resurgence to European football – much like how former Gunner Martinez has inadvertently triggered the revival of Aston Villa’s upper echelon reputation.
The Copa America winning goalkeeper, who left north London to join Dean Smith’s side in a deal worth £20 million last season, was only able to warrant his price tag – albeit in hindsight a shrewd fee – following the injury of Bernd Leno against Brighton in the twilight stages of the 2019/20 season.
Martinez seamlessly slotted between the sticks and went on to finish the campaign as the Gunners’ number one, while also playing an instrumental role in rolling out the red carpet for Arteta to lift his first FA Cup as a head coach.
The 28-year-old goalkeeper’s surge to stardom almost foreshadows Willock’s eventual rise to greatness at Newcastle; both are under appreciated players at London Colney and have been let go without enough of a fight.
Martinez enjoyed a fruitful first season at Aston Villa keeping 15 clean sheets across as many appearances he had made for Arsenal across ten years, which can be likened to Willock’s instant success in Tyneside amid his concrete lack of opportunities at the Emirates.
Villa’s goalkeeper, who Lionel Messi has admitted he would die for following the Argentine’s heroics at Copa America, famously revealed how he felt that a move to Villa Park was a step up in his career, despite the Villains having only just been promoted into the top-flight the season prior his arrival.
Martinez, who had spent a decade at the Gunners making just 38 appearances amid various loan spells in the meantime, disclosed how he felt that a move to Villa Park was a step up in his career.
Speaking on his move to Villa, he said: “They were all saying it was a step down in my career, but I always said it was a step up.
“When I decided to come to Villa it was because I trusted the manager and the club’s ambitions, and I knew how big Villa are.”
And, despite an influx of furious Arsenal fans lampooning his comments, Martinez wasn’t entirely proven right but his desire to feel part of a project is similar to how Willock has been made to feel at Newcastle.
Speaking to the Newcastle United website following his arrival, Willock said: “I loved my time here last season and I’m really happy to be back and to be a Newcastle United player.
“Leaving Arsenal is obviously a big step, and I’d like to thank everyone involved with the club for all their support over the years, but this is the right move to the right club at the right time for me.”
Willock continued as highlighted how important the Toon fans have made him feel despite his brief time at the club.
“I only got one chance to play in front of a smaller number of Newcastle fans as a home player last season,” he said. “I can’t wait to step out in front of a packed St. James’ Park and experience that atmosphere.”
The Hale End graduate’s comments following his move are sung from the same hymn sheet as Martinez’s when he left the Emirates.
With Willock out of the door, Arsenal fans must now prepare to see the youngster thrive, but on an international level as well as national.
Martinez’s mouth-watering saves for Villa propelled him into the Argentina men’s national team, playing an important role in guiding Messi to his first Copa America triumph.
The Villa shot-stopper saved two penalties against Columbia in the semi-final which led the six-time Balon d’Or winner to express his admiration for Martinez.
Speaking after the game, Messi said: “We have Emi, who is a phenomenon. We knew that he was going to stop them. We know and trust him. He deserves it. We achieved the goal of being able to play all the games and now we are going to the final.”
Although not to the same international pedigree, Bruce revealed his delight at being able to bring Willock back to St. James’ Park.
When asked about how he felt after finally getting his primary transfer target, Bruce said: “We had to be patient but it was worth the wait. Where else can you find a 21-year-old who scored seven on the trot [on loan last season] and plays like him? Fair play to everyone to get it done.”
Bruce continued as he detailed the lengths in which the Newcastle hierarchy went to seal the England Under-21 international’s services.
“We explored the loan option, but when that couldn’t happen we knew we had to buy him,” he said. “Which is fantastic so fair play. We have had to be patient. To be fair to my bosses they always said if Joe became available we’d try to buy him.”
This deal highlights a potential lack of group cohesion at London Colney, which has otherwise been felt by Martinez and Willock at their respective new clubs, causing this quality of player to leave.
Therefore, a lot of parallels can be drawn from Martinez’s and Willock’s moves away from the Emirates as they begin to pave their long-term futures.
However, the departures could also be a warning signal to the Gunners’ fans that the Arsenal contingent are failing to retain their most ambitious and promising talents.
Source by Football London