Paul Merson sends message to Joe Willock over his Arsenal future after Newcastle heroics

Arsenal youngster Joe Willock shone on loan at Newcastle (Picture: Getty)

Paul Merson has urged Joe Willock to fight for his place at Arsenal and believes the midfielder has ‘got to be’ in Mikel Arteta’s starting XI if he stays on at the Emirates next season.

Willock, 21, enjoyed an outstanding loan spell with Newcastle in the second half of the campaign, scoring seven goals in his last seven games to match Alan Shearer’s club record and steer the Magpies away from the relegation zone.

Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce has made no secret of his desire to sign Willock on a permanent basis and last month suggested the England Under-21 international was the ‘type of player you would love to build your team around’.

Arsenal are reportedly prepared to do business for Willock for a fee as little as £20million but Merson hopes the youngster returns to north London and is given the opportunity to prove himself alongside fellow academy products Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.

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‘Three weeks ago maybe, you’re looking and thinking, “What’s he gone there for?”, he’s sub for Newcastle now, and now he’s just beat the record (youngest player in Premier League history to score in seven consecutive games),’ the ex-Arsenal and England midfielder told Sky Sports.

‘If he comes back now, he’s got to be in the team.

‘No disrespect to Newcastle, but Newcastle are not above Arsenal and we’ve got to be honest with that.

‘I would come back and have a go. I would 100 per cent come back and say, “You know what, I want to give it a go at Arsenal”, and if he isn’t in the team in six months, your agent goes in, or he goes in and goes, “You know what, I’m never gonna make it at Arsenal!”‘

Willock was a big decision to make over his future this summer (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal head coach Arteta has played down speculation Willock could be set for the exit door after being impressed by the midfielder’s goalscoring exploits in the North East.

‘I am really happy that things have gone so well because of the potential that he has,’ the Spaniard told reporters last week.

‘I think it was great for him to go away and have a different experience. Joe has grabbed that opportunity in a really positive and remarkable way.

‘He will come back to us, we will have a conversation with him and plan the next years for him.

‘He got the responsibility and the task to go to Newcastle to help them go where they want.

‘I’m telling you that I spoke with the coaching staff and they are extremely happy because he was a key part in contributing to get the objectives that they had. So that’s a real positive for him.

‘He’s got a contract and that’s going to be here. That’s for sure.’

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