Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Arsenal put Ben to paper as White signs a new deal

Morning.

There’s only one place to start this morning, and that’s the fact Ben White has signed a new contract with the club. It’s not a surprise, it’s been in the works for some time, and it’s just reward for the quality and consistency of his performances. Mikel Arteta says:

Ben is a key player for us, a top professional with a winning mentality, and one of the guys who leads by example every day. Ben’s ability, determination and positive attitude are so important, but he is also a great character and human being. We all look forward to continue working with Ben in the coming years.

While beautiful Benjamin himself, his golden thighs casting a warm glow to the contract signing room at London Colney, said:

I’m so happy – it’s been a long journey, and amazing to sign again and be here for more years. I’ve said before I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, so it’s perfect.

Arsenal’s contract management hasn’t always been brilliant, it’s fair to say, but with this combination of a settled environment and a really competitive team, we’ve found it much easier to secure the futures of our top players. Ben White comes after Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, William Saliba, Gabriel, and Martin Odegaard committed to new terms, and there is a kind of snowball effect in play too. When you see those guys make it clear Arsenal is the place to be for them, why would you even consider going somewhere else?

I am, as I’ve made clear more than once, a huge fan of Ben White. Like most people, I raised an eyebrow when we paid £50m for him back in the summer of 2021, but the price-tag is basically an afterthought now. Even though, on that difficult first night with that game against Brentford, the knives were out straight away from high profile pundits who really should know better.

His development as one of the best right-backs in the Premier League has been something of a surprise, but I think you could put him in anywhere and get at least 7/10 from him. He’s just such a solid player. You know what you’re going to get him with him. Consistency, reliability, and a will to win that is, perhaps, at odds with how people perceive him. The conflation between his lack of interest in football outside of his job and a lack of seriousness about what he does misses the point completely. You just have to watch him play to understand that, and if he doesn’t conform to the ‘norms’ about how most fans think about football, that’s an issue for them, and not him.

People often talk the Arsenal trio of William Saliba, Gabriel and Declan Rice as a kind of platform for what we do – and that is obviously true. However, I think in some ways it does Ben White a disservice. Look at the appearances and minutes this season:

  • William Saliba – 39 appearances, 3422 minutes
  • Gabriel – 40 appearances, 3282 minutes
  • Declan Rice – 39 appearances, 3261 minutes
  • Ben White – 39 appearances, 3048 minutes

That trio is amazing, but when we talk about them, it should be a quartet. Ben White is the fourth musketeer, our dashing defensive D’Artagnan. With injuries to Jurrien Timber and Takehiro Tomiyasu this season, he has carried the right-back burden on his own, with just a few scant minutes off when we’ve smashed another team by five or six, and there’s no danger in putting on someone like Cedric.

As for the rest, you all know it already. A brilliant footballer, someone who can combine both attacking threat and defensive solidity with the kind of strength and stamina that would make oxen jealous. He can score, he’s banging out the assists at the moment, and he combines it with a kind of unique character in the modern game. The post-match interviews, the shit-housing, the sly grin, the japes he has with his teammates and the opposition, it’s impossible not to love him.

As for the England stuff, The Athletic have a good explainer here (£). I think he’s quite happy not to be involved, and that really should be as far as it goes. Of course Gareth Southgate knows why, and everyone knows Gareth Southgate knows, but ultimately it’s to Arsenal’s benefit. As Saka and Rice go away for more minutes, Ben White will stay behind, top up his tan, and be fresh and ready for our game against Man City. I don’t think the England manager did him any favours with his comments, but it’s storm in a teacup stuff really, and my suspicion is it barely registers on Ben White’s give-a-shit-ometer.

Give-a-fuck-ometer

So, great news – and here’s to many successful years ahead for him and for Arsenal.

The other thing today is the Champions League draw, which takes place at something o’clock after what will feel like hours of inane, tedious bullshit from UEFA. It’s an open draw, so we’ll get one from Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Manch115ter City, Borussia Dortmund, and Atletico Madrid. I am ABC here, anyone but City, and I’d probably like one of Bayern or Barcelona, just to have that revenge narrative going on after the pain they have inflicted upon us over the years. Which isn’t to take anything for granted, but we owe them, and I think that is within the capabilities of this team.

Let’s see what happens, we’ll bring the draw over on Arseblog News, and we’ll have a post-draw podcast for you at some point too.

For now, have a great Friday.

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