MIKEL ARTETA praised Joe Willock’s ‘special qualities’ as the youngster made his case for more minutes in an Arsenal shirt.
The academy graduate, 21, shone for the Gunners in their 4-1 win over Molde.
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Willock had a hand in three of the goals – forcing two opponents into own goals before finding the net for himself late on.
His boss knows he now has a selection headache going into Sunday’s game with Aston Villa, where he could hand the midfielder his first Premier League outing of the season.
Arteta said: “I think he was really strong in his performance. The way he’s approaching every opportunity it shows how mature he is.
“I saw his press conference as well – I’m impressed the way he’s communicated. He’s developing the right way.
“He’s a player I like – he has some special qualities and he’s showing it with his performances, his goals and his attitude.
“The thing is that we have a big squad a the moment. I really trust him.
“This is the competition that we are not treating to give young players a chance. This is a competition we’re taking seriously.”
But the own goals and Nicolas Pepe’s strike put the Gunners in complete control before Willock rounded off the scoring with his fifth European goal.
He was by far Arsenal’s standout player, even before his well-taken goal, and grabbed his chance with both hands.
Willock was desperate to make an impression, especially after being left out of the squad for the win at Old Trafford on Sunday despite getting a goal and an assist against Dundalk a week ago.
The star, who joined Arsenal aged four, said: “I’m just taking it game by game. This is part of my journey.
“I’m a young kid and I’m trying to play well every time I get a chance.
“I need to learn from the disappointment of not being in the squad [against Manchester United] and then getting myself back up to play again tonight.
“I trust in the manager and I trust he’ll give me an opportunity when I deserve it.
“I’m trying to work hard and perform like I did today and when I get a chance to play in the Premier League, hopefully I can do the same.”