Why Joe Willock is Newcastle's most underappreciated player
Joe Willock’s performance in Newcastle’s 2-1 win over Wolves on Sunday demonstrated why he is such a vital and yet underrated part of Eddie Howe’s side.
His perfectly timed pass set up Miguel Almiron to get a much needed three points on his return to the team, after not starting Newcastle’s previous three games. In those games, Newcastle lost all three, failing to even score a goal and it’s no coincidence this bad run of form occurred with Willock’s absence from the side.
His partnership with Joelinton on the left hand side has been a huge part of Newcastle’s success this season, with the two developing an understanding to fluidly interchange between midfield and forward roles when necessary.
They have both been a big factor in the team currently having the best defensive record in the Premier League so far this season, only conceding 18 goals and keeping 12 clean sheets. Joelinton has won the most tackles out of any Newcastle player this season, 38, and only Almiron and Kieran Trippier are ahead of Willock, who has won 22.
Their work ethic, along with the support provided for left back Dan Burn, has significantly nullified any threat coming from the opposition’s right side.
This is a contrast from the role he played for the club when he joined on loan in January 2021. In this loan spell, he mostly played in a three man midfield with a back five behind them, mainly aiming to concede possession and hit the opposition on the counter attack. This meant that his defensive work was a lot more limited as there were often big numbers behind the ball in a more defensive structure.
This system allowed Willock to make a high amount of late runs into the box, contributing to his unexpected scoring run which saw him net eight goals in the last nine games of the season.
Within Eddie Howe’s side his role is dramatically different, with much more emphasis being placed on regaining possession once the ball has been lost. This had allowed us to see the full extent of his defensive work and more all round footballing ability.
Despite not scoring as much as he previously did, this doesn’t mean he isn’t contributing to the team as much. In fact, in Howe’s system he is almost certainly bringing more to the team overall than in his first stint under Steve Bruce.
Willock’s skillset, including his versatility, work rate and ability in transitions, makes him the perfect player for Howe’s high energy Newcastle side. At only 23 years old, he has the world at his feet and a big role to play in the future of Newcastle United.