Willock added to QPR’s attacking rack and stack – Signing
Monday, 5th Oct 2020 23:30 by Clive Whittingham
Not a day for those who think QPR’s main deficiencies rest in defence, with Chris Willock added to a growing collection of wide forwards in the squad on a £750kish deal from Benfica.
Chris Willock is a 22-year-old, right-footed, left-sided winger or forward from Waltham Forest. His favourite colour is maroon, he enjoys adding pomegranates to salads, and he believes modern society is too materialistic.
He’s long been regarded as a player of great promise, having graduated along with his younger brother Joe from Arsenal’s academy, but has actually only ever made eight starts and eight sub appearances at senior level in this country, all while on loan in the Championship with Huddersfield last year bar two substitute appearances for the Gunners in League Cup wins against Forest and Reading in 2016/17. He’s been capped extensively by England at youth level – 47 caps spread between U16 and U20 level and a place in the team of the tournament at the U17 European Championships in 2015.
At age 19 and with his contract up he joined Portuguese side Benfica on a five-year deal, with rumoured interest from Spurs and Man City. His time there has been spent entirely in their B Team, which plays in the second tier of Portuguese football. He has 14 goals and nine assists from 64 appearances there – a goal roughly every four and a half appearances.
Last season he began on loan at West Brom but with the likes of Pereira and Diangana ahead of him in the pecking order left The Hawthorns in the January transfer window without ever making a senior appearance. He joined struggling Huddersfield for the second half of the campaign and scored twice in eight games, both in crucial 2-1 home wins against Bristol City and then, ironically, West Brom on the penultimate weekend as the Terriers recovered from two points from their first 10 games to survive with a match still to play.
Willock had widely been expected to return to West Yorkshire on a permanent deal this summer with the usual suspects quoting a fee as high as £1m for that switch in mid-September, but QPR have used his connection with our coach Neil Banfield to help nudge ahead in the race and today confirmed his signing on a four year deal. Current UK government guidelines say that arrivals from Portugal must quarantine themselves for 14 days which makes the forthcoming international break a timely one, but also means he’s unlikely to be involved much at Bournemouth on the other side of it.
“I can’t wait to meet my new team-mates and to get started. I am really happy to be here. The team plays good football and I think that will suit me. Growing up and being taught at Arsenal’s academy and later going on to Benfica, it’s in my DNA. I have been moulded to play in that way, so I think this suits the club and it suits me. I told Adel straight away. Adel is a really good friend and has been like a big brother to me. He has helped me a lot in my short career. He had good things to say about the club and reminded me QPR is a family club. Adel is a really big reason why I was so adamant about coming here. I’m a player that likes to attack, likes to dribble a lot, score goals and to set up team-mates. All round, I will try my best and work as hard as I can for the team. I am just looking forward to getting out on the pitch and proving to everyone what I can do.” - Chris Willock
“He has experience at this level having spent time on loan at Huddersfield last season. He had a great academy education with Arsenal and he is known very well by Neil Banfield, our first team coach. Neil knows his character and that’s important – we know he is a good trainer and a good lad. He can play across 7, 10, or 11, and he’s comfortable in all three positions which gives us the flexibility we need. He’s creative, he has pace and physicality, a good technical base and he offers us something different. We need options and we need depth, and undoubtedly he will add to that.” -Warbs Warburton
“We didn’t really get much of a look at him to be honest. Cowley was bringing up him to full fitness because the first of half of the season with West Brom he didn’t get a look in. He scored a really important goal against West Brom to help keep us up and scored a beauty against Bristol City. I think he only played like eight times. I would have had him back because I think he’s a talent and is definitely more attack minded then our wingers. Long story short, wouldn’t be surprised if he does really well for you, wouldn’t be surprised if he was a bit inconsistent and only impresses in flashes.” - Brady Frost, Huddersfield fan
“Inconsistent player, probably needs an extended run in the team to judge fairly, very direct, decent turn of pace but also runs into some blind alleys at times, WBA put in a performance that kept us up. Solid Champ player.” - David Siddall, Huddersfield fan
Spending the limited resources QPR are working with on yet more attacking players, when the defence has conceded 70 goals three seasons in a row and is showing plenty of signs of running that close again, seems counter-intuitive, and the worst excesses of Warbs-ball. But it cannot be denied that in the early games this season there has been something missing from QPR going forwards.
That was to be expected, with Nahki Wells, My Chemical Hugill and Ebere Eze all departing since the turn of the year taking 45 goals out of last season’s total. As discussed in our Sheff Wed report, the set up between the defence and the lone striker isn’t quite working for Rangers at the moment. Warburton likes Luke Amos for his pressing game, but by playing him at ten rather than a more gifted attacker we’re losing so much when we do have the ball. Ilias Chair, meanwhile, who you feel could impress there, is being used wide left where - kindly put - it hasn’t really happened for him yet. Lyndon Dykes is lacking support from the ten position and service from wide. The lack of threat in those positions is also allowing teams to double up on Bright Osayi-Samuel and crowd his influence out of the game – though he’s still arguably been our best player in the last three fixtures.
There are further problems in the deep-lying two as well, where Tom Carroll hasn’t played as well lately as he did in the first two games of the season, and Geoff Cameron is rather looking his age. We’re not a million miles off, but it feels like a couple of adjustments and a few more moves of the tiles are required to complete the puzzle.
Rangers were at their best last year with Osayi-Samuel very wide right, and Ebere Eze coming in off the left flank. It stretched Championship teams right across the pitch, and prevented them from doubling up on either of our star men. Cardiff on New Year’s Day were beaten 6-1 having been systematically incapable of coping with that set up. Willock, like Eze, is a right footed player who likes to play down the left and come in field. There are many positives with this transfer – good age, a price and wage within our budget, plenty of further sell on potential if it goes well, a talented lad with huge potential. I think it’s quite a coup to be honest, but then I said that about Jordan Cousins so I’m no judge.
This signing addresses a specific weakness in the current team, but it’s not the most pressing weakness. Fine, if Bright does leave before next week’s deadline, then bringing in Albert Adomah to cover him, Dykes and Bonne to replace Wells and Hugill, and Willock to replace Eze wide left with Chair moving in field all makes sense. But if Bright doesn’t leave, then racking and stacking attacking players in a team that already attacked pretty well and scored reasonably frequently, while continuing to make the same mistakes and concede the same sorts of goals from the same sorts of defensive mistakes, rests somewhere between Keegan and gratuitous. This presumably spells the end for Mide Shodipo, Paul Smyth and others.
I’m trying to keep a lid on any negativity or criticism because I can see the thinking in Adomah, and I really like us picking up Willock for this price and on this contract. I hold my hands up to not knowing what I’m talking about, but for me the team’s key problem remains the two holding central midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 and the left side of the defence, both centre half and full back, through which goals are not so much leaking as flowing in a veritable torrent. While accepting that Adomah and Willock are available and affordable now when they maybe otherwise wouldn’t be, I can’t help but think some investment may have been better diverted to more obvious weak points in the team.
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