Willock sets sights on England as Arsenal ‘friends’ realise ambitions

Maitland-Niles and Saka, like Willock, came through Arsenal’s Hale End academy and they have impressed enough this season to be called up by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.

Willock is close friends with the pair, having known them since he was young, and their rise has got him dreaming of achieving similar things.

“I mean, first of all, they are friends to me,” said Willock. “So I am so happy for them and I just take my hat off to them.

“I grew up with them in the academy as well. For them to go to the first team with England is an amazing achievement.

“As you said, if they can do it, I can do it as well. So I am just trying to work hard. That’s my aim really, to play for my country and shine.”


Maitland-Niles and Saka have thrived

/ Arsenal FC via Getty Images )

Willock is likely to feature on Thursday when Arsenal take on Molde in the Europa League, but he is yet to play in the Premier League this season.

As a result, manager Mikel Arteta has confessed the Gunners considered loaning out the 21-year-old this summer – but he wanted to stay and fight for his place.

“I thrive off competition,” said Willock. “So when I had the conversation with him (Arteta), that wasn’t a conversation that was negative. It was something positive for me.

“I wanted to learn from these players that are coming and I can train with every day, and compete with.


Willock hard at work in training

/ Arsenal FC via Getty Images )

“I am 21 years of age and I want to compete with these players. I said to him (Arteta) that is what I want to do and it was very encouraging for him to support me and say if I play well, I’ll get the chance.

“So that’s what I am trying to do right now.”

One of those players Willock is now competing with in midfield is summer signing Thomas Partey, who joined Arsenal for £45million on deadline day.

The Ghanaian has instantly impressed since moving from Atletico Madrid and Willock believes he can get even better.


Partey impressed at Old Trafford

/ Arsenal FC via Getty Images )

“For me he is a brilliant player, everyone could see when he played at Old Trafford what he can do,” he said.

“But I feel like he can still get even better and put in more brilliant performances, as he did at Old Trafford.”

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