Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Add to favourites: Ben White

Morning all.

As we don’t play until Monday night, it’s likely to be a pretty quiet weekend from an Arsenal perspective. We’ll be keeping an eye on results elsewhere, hoping that both Nottingham Forest and Man Utd can get something from their games against Liverpool and Man City respectively, but I think we all know what’s going to happen. Especially in the Manchester derby which could be a bloodbath, given how many chances United dish up in every game.

There’s an interview with Ben White in the Guardian which is worth a read. I’m probably a bit too long in the tooth to have favourite players … but he is my favourite player. Let’s be honest, there are so many to choose from in this Arsenal squad, due to their qualities and personalities, but there’s something about him which is just a bit unusual in the modern game. You can see when he does post-match interviews, for example, that the media training all footballers get is there, but it comes out in a different way to most others.

The stuff about him not watching football is often treated as a bit of a joke, again because it’s unusual. It’s at odds with our own experience, because even if it’s just Arsenal, we spend a lot of time and energy watching football. But there’s a big difference between the concept of not watching football and not caring about football. It seems pretty clear to me that to be a success in this Arsenal team, you need to understand the game and the opposition, which will require some study (and watching football footage!). It’s just he doesn’t do that when he goes home. You don’t get to where he has in the game without a real competitive nature, something he touches on, saying:

I want to win everything that I do. My missus and I play a lot of games at home and I won’t be letting her win. I remember being young and always wanting to play aggressively and do as much as I could to win.

It was hard not to think of Ben White when questions were put to Mikel Arteta about the ‘dark arts’ of the game last week. His role at corners for example:

There’s all sorts, standing on your feet, elbows. It’s OK. I just have to stand in the way and see what happens. Some of the videos I have seen … It comes back to doing anything to win.

The focus is almost always on him as this kind of penalty box pest, a goalkeeper’s irritant, but it’s a two way street. He’s getting some back as he stands in the way, doing his best to maintain a face with the innocence of a choirboy, but we know he’s just trying to be a bit naughty without being caught. Like the schoolboy with a peashooter who fires one at the blackboard every time the teacher turns around to write something on it.

Ultimately though, for all these interesting and enjoyable character traits, and for all the sly trips and clattering Anthony Gordon and trying to throttle Phil Foden we all relish, at the heart of it he is a fantastic defender and all-round footballer. The game has changed in recent years, with much more versatility required – especially in defensive positions – but even so his move from centre-half to one of the best right-backs in the Premier League deserves more credit. He is a quintessentially modern football player. Go back in your mind to some of the great central defenders we’ve had in our time at this club, and think about how many of them wouldn’t have just survived being moved to full-back, but thrived. It’d be a pretty short list of some fantastic players.

It’s no wonder Arsenal have tied him down to a deal new deal, set to be announced in the not too distant future (I suspect the timing of it is connected to FFP and accounting purposes), but it’s a wrap. And it’s great news. When he signed from Brighton for £50m, eyebrows were certainly raised. He wasn’t necessarily high profile, although he had been part of the England squad that summer, but nobody thinks twice about his price-tag anymore. It’s been money very well spent by Arsenal, and his best years are probably ahead of him too.

Wingers, and goalkeepers, watch out. And let’s hope that will to win remains a key part of Arsenal going the distance this season.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. We’ll have a Premier League preview podcast for you over on Patreon a little later this morning, so please join us for that. It costs around £5.50 a month for instant access to all our exclusive content, as well as supporting everything we do here on Arseblog.

Have a great Saturday folks.

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