According to the Birmingham Mail, West Brom are interested in striking a permanent deal for Benfica loanee Chris Willock, despite the youngster failing to make an impression under head-coach Slaven Bilic.
West Brom have the option to turn the loan move into a permanent one and the Baggies are looking forward to exercising the buy clause in the agreement, either in January or at the end of the season.
Along with Matheus Pereira, Filip Krovinovic and Grady Diangana, Chris Willock was one of the four loan recruits made by Bilic in the summer transfer window following his appointment as the permanent manager at the Hawthorns.
While the others have already made a positive impact in the Championship to varying degrees, Willock is yet to make his professional bow for the Baggies, with the versatile winger forced to bide his time with the U-23s in the Premier League 2 Division 2 due to stiff competition for places in the senior ranks.
With Matt Phillips an undisputed starter down the right and Pereira, Kyle Edwards, Krovinovic and Diangana all competing for the remaining slots in Bilic’s 4-2-3-1 system every week, it is not difficult to see why Chris Willock has failed to even make a single matchday squad in the Championship thus far.
The talented 21-year-old, who rose through the youth ranks at Arsenal alongside his brother Joe before leaving for Benfica in 2017, made it to the matchday squad in West Brom’s defeat to Millwall in the first round of the EFL Cup back in August, although he never entered the field of play.
Willock, though, has impressed for the U-23s this term under James Shan in the Premier League 2 Division 2, accumulating 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 appearances and that, apparently, has been enough to convince the hierarchy of the youngster’s abilities, with a permanent move to West Midlands now in the offing.
To put things into perspective, Chris Willock might have failed to make it through to Benfica’s first-team but he was highly-rated at Arsenal and his talent is unlikely to have evaporated over such a short duration of time and, with that in mind, the Baggies should not hesitate to complete a permanent move for him if the asking price is right.
The 21-year-old’s lack of senior professional experience continues to be a stumbling block and he would probably have been a part of Bilic’s first-team plans had it not been for the presence of more established players in the ranks.
However, Willock, who is capable of playing anywhere across the forward line, is a bright prospect and West Brom should look at him one for the future, although his failure to make a transition to the senior level at the age of 21 could be a cause of concern.
Of course, West Brom’s decision to snap him up permanently would depend largely on Benfica’s asking price but, with the pathway to the first-team very much open under Bilic, as evident from the involvement of academy graduates Kyle Edwards and Nathan Ferguson, Willock could get his chance to impress in the longer run.
The 21-year-old probably needs a bit more polishing before he is ready to stake a claim for a place in the first-team moving forward, regardless of whether West Brom secure promotion to the Premier League and the Baggies might as well look to arrange a loan deal at some Football League club in the lower divisions if they do end up signing him permanently.
To that end, though, there is still plenty of time left in the ongoing campaign and Willock could find himself in the mix later on in the season provided there is an injury crisis of some sorts.
To conclude, West Brom signing Chris Willock permanently would be a step in the right direction as far as their long-term plans are concerned but, given that he is still an unproven talent at the highest level, the Baggies would be better off making a decision based on Benfica’s asking price for the player, as paying too much over the odds might not be the right course of action.
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