Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ben White gets the Interlull off

When the England squad was announced for the upcoming Nations League games, I was surprised not to see Ben White in it.

My first thought that it had something to with an injury we don’t know about it, and he has appeared to have some issues late in games this season, but it does seem as if he’s just not in Gareth Southgate’s plans. Which is a bit odd. Don’t get me wrong, from an Arsenal perspective the fact he’ll be fresh for the October Slogathon ©® is a good thing, but in terms of form this season he’s been one of the best from the bunch that was picked.

Harry Maguire, for example, hasn’t played well for a very long time – not just this season – and is currently not even getting into the United team. Even if Southgate trusts him because he’s had him in his squad consistently down the years, he could use these two games to try an alternative. But then it seems he is very conservative in his thinking. At this point, if you’re going into a major tournament and Harry Maguire is a key part of your plans, you’re likely to get what you deserve.

Speaking of Ben White though, he did an interesting interview with the official site, and spoke about how the spotlight was firmly on him after the Brentford game at the start of last season. He said:

“I played in the Brentford game and didn’t have a good game. I was getting battered by every person in the media and it’s rubbish to hear that.

“I don’t have social media or anything like that, so I don’t actually see any of it but you get told about it and sent it. It’s one of those things; everyone has their opinion. Some you listen to it, and some of you don’t.”

You listen to: Your manager, the coaches.

You don’t listen to: A mouthy ex-player turned Twitter shop-steward who dances with the away fans when he should be providing analysis on live television.

I’ve already written a blog recently about how I think Ben White is good, so I don’t need to do that again, but isn’t that a good illustration of how short-term some of the thinking is in the modern football landscape, and how it can become the prevailing wisdom around a player, or a club etc. It’s been quite funny that the ‘Lisandro Martinez is too small to play centre-half in the Premier League’ stories have died down now that he has shown he can do that. I mean, he’s better than Harry Maguire, but then I guess that’s a low bar. A bit like saying a slap in the face is better than being kicked in the balls by an angry mule.

But I do think the way he was pilloried after that opening game, in which he struggled but didn’t play as badly as many think, has left a kind of indelible mark on him in the eyes of some fans. He was judged on the basis of his price-tag more than the level of his performance, and look, that’s football, people have expectations when you pay big money for anyone, but I don’t think it’s always fair. It’s also worth remembering two of the back four that night basically never played again after those opening three games, we were missing players through Covid etc too, so it was much more a team failure than a Ben White horror show.

He was also interesting about what he learned on loan in the early part of his career, saying:

“Even the League Two teams I’ve played for and in League One, I’ve taken stuff from there. They’re a completely different environment and you’re put in situations that aren’t a Premier League standard. Each coach has different things to offer.”

He spent a season with Newport County, a season with Peterborough United, and then a season with Leeds, helping them gain promotion from the Championship to the Premier League. When you look at some of the players we have out on loan this season, you know there’s likely not much chance of them making the grade, but the Academy gems we’re trying to develop would do well to remember that developmental seasons like that can be  hugely beneficial.

It’s so far, so good for Flo Balogun at Reims in Ligue 1, he’s scored 5 goals and got an assist in 7 games so far. Only Neymar and Mbappe have scored more this season in France. Charlie Patino was getting rave reviews at Blackpool before injury got in the way, but he’s back now and hopefully ready to get plenty of minutes under his belt. The pathway to the first team at Arsenal isn’t always straight from the Academy, sometimes you have to make a few stops along the way.

Right. I’ll leave it there for this morning, and there’s a brand new Arsecast for you to listen to. First up I talk to Tim Stillman about the start of a new season for Arsenal Women, before I chat with former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein on the release of his autobiography called ‘Calling the shots’. Enjoy!


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