NEWCASTLE'S number one transfer target Joe Willock was absent for Arsenal's pre-season friendly yesterday due to a groin problem.

Newcastle's hopes of re-signing Willock may have been reignited when they saw that the midfielder's name wasn't on the team sheet.

However, head coach Mikel Arteta has confirmed this was due to picking up the injury.

After the 2-1 defeat in Edinburgh, the Gunners was defiant in his message that Willock will be a big part of their plans for the season going forward.

Speaking to the media after the game, Arteta said: “Well he (Willock) wasn’t involved today because he had a little groin issue.

"He trained yesterday really well but we didn't want to risk him. Joe is part of our plans, he’s our player and in the time that he is here we will try to make the most out of him.

"He had a great experience on loan. He was, I think one of the most important players for their survival."

Willock scored in the final seven matches of the season for the Magpies, and manager Steve Bruce is extremely keen to sign him this summer, whether on a permanent basis or another loan deal.

Newcastle officials have held discussions with their counterparts at the Emirates, and Arteta is well aware of Newcastle’s interest.

At the start of the summer, sources in London were claiming that Arteta was minded to allow Willock to leave, however the situation has appeared to have changed in the last few weeks.

As things stand, Arteta appears to be pencilling Willock back into his plans, a move that will be a major blow to Newcastle if it results in him remaining in North London.