Over the last few days, it became known among the Arsenal community that 19-year-old Dan Crowley was linked with a move to Willem II, which was then confirmed yesterday. Now at the beginning of a three-year-deal with his new club, Crowley spent a few years at Arsenal which saw him loaned to Barnsley, Oxford United and another Dutch club in Go Ahead Eagles.
With Crowley and Chris Willock being two of mine and many other Arsenal fan’s favourite prospects of late, this summer hasn’t been that impressive on that front. Rather than just confirming the move I’d like to bring to light what Arsenal could miss from this deal, similarly to the transfer of Willock to Benfica earlier this month.
First off, and it may not be that important to some but with both of them leaving you lose two potential fan favourites of the future. With Willock being at the club from a very young age and Crowley coming along a bit later from Aston Villa, both were building a reputation in the academy and had they broken into the first-team, this would’ve added that extra something special to the side having seen them come through the ranks, like Hector Bellerin, Alex Iwobi and now Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
To move onto more important matters, I’ll start with Dan Crowley. A very talented midfielder who has been gaining some first-team experience on loan for the last 18 months I was expecting to see him make that step up this season, especially after seeing him pictured at pre-season training when the squad were back in London, but I guess Mr. Wenger had other plans.
When you watch Crowley there’s one thing that immediately makes you think Arsenal and that’s his technique. From short and long range passing, his touch to his set pieces it’s hard to fault him in this department and you can see him fitting easily into an Arsene Wenger team. He may not be a midfielder that gets great numbers in terms of goals and assists but don’t think that he doesn’t influence games.
Playing a bit deeper last season, it was a joy to see him at work with Go Ahead Eagles as despite them eventually getting relegated, he consistently put in great performances. This loan spell excited fans for what might’ve come in the League Cup or Europa League this season for us but with this move, I guess I’ll have to keep an eye out for him in the Eredivisie. He’s still only 19 going on 20 in August so there’s no reason to panic but I won’t be surprised to see him back in English football in the near future after he matures a bit with more first-team football under his belt.
Personally in an Arsenal team of the future I saw Crowley performing a similar role to Santi Cazorla (this is not me saying he would be as good as Cazorla), playing a bit deeper to dictate play for us as he without question has the attributes to perform in that role, and coming through our academy it would’ve been even better as we wouldn’t have to shell out crazy money for someone in that position, but hey, that’s football I guess, I just hope we put a buy back clause in the contract somewhere.
Now for Chris Willock, another player who seemed like he would break through soon enough. If you didn’t already know, his move to Benfica came after his contract was allowed to run down, a problem I didn’t expect us to have with players of his age along with the established first-team players. Let’s just hope the same doesn’t happen with his brother Joe who is currently impressing on the pre-season tour.
With Chris we had somebody who could either play on the left wing or as a striker and moving into the new season he could’ve fit in well behind a main striker in the 3-4-2-1 in maybe a League Cup/Europa League game or two. Like Crowley and probably anyone at Arsenal, Willock is very good technically and comfortable on the ball, and not having the physicality to maybe lead a line on his own this could’ve put him in contention for some minutes in this formation.
Willock was with the first-team for quite a while before making the move to Portugal, which was probably the biggest thing that made you believe he’d find his way into the team. He made a couple appearances for the first-team last season too and didn’t disappoint, but now being involved with one of the best clubs in Europe you’ll probably see him go from strength to strength.
Of the few clips that are out there, he seems to be confident training with his new team mates, sitting a goalkeeper down before scoring, and still being in the England youth set up this could be a great opportunity for him to learn a new view on the game in a league that may help him develop quicker than if he stayed in our under 23’s team for another year.
Both seemed to have great futures at the club but their moves have shown you that anything can happen in football, the positive for both is that they look like they’ll be somewhat involved in senior football which can only help them improve as players. For me I hope to see them back in England at some point but believe me, don’t forget about these two just because they’re not at Arsenal anymore, they can both go far in their careers.