Arsenal midfielder Joe Willock reveals key lesson learnt from Arsene Wenger

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Willock was handed his first-team debut by Wenger (Picture: Getty Images)

Joe Willock has opened up on the ‘surreal’ experience of playing under Arsene Wenger and how the iconic Arsenal manager taught him to express himself on the pitch.

After rising through the academy, Wenger gave the midfielder his first-team debut in September 2017 and he hasn’t looked back since.

This season, the 20-year-old has made 21 Premier League appearances and alongside fellow academy products Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson, Willock has established himself as a key figure in the senior squad.

But, it was Wenger’s initial influence that allowed the youngster to shine and one key lesson from his former mentor sticks in his mind.

Willock told talkSPORT: ‘Growing up, Arsene Wenger was Arsenal. It was all I knew. He was part of the furniture.

‘For me to grow up and play under him was a crazy feeling. It was surreal. He’s an amazing man.

‘Arsene Wenger was a very laid back man but when he spoke, everyone listened. He was Arsene Wenger so everyone had to listen.

‘He always taught me personally to play with freedom and enjoy myself. That’s one thing I can take from him.’

Wenger finally waved goodbye to Arsenal in 2018 after 22 years (Picture: Getty Images)

After Wenger’s departure from the club in 2018, former winger Freddie Ljungberg joined as Under-23s manager and took Willock under his wing.

‘Freddie was my Under-23s coach and came up to the first-team with me,’ Willock added.

‘It was so convenient and good for me to have him by my side for the transition as well because he understands who I am and how I work and knows how to get the best out of me.

‘To have him in the first-team as well is really good.’

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