Tag Archives: Ben White

Ben White, the "White Back", and the box-to-box player…

Benny Blanco admires the fruits of his labour…

Ben White has invented a new position. It’s a position that confounds opponents and Southgate. What’s more, it unleashes Saka’s full potential. In the annals, we’ve yearned for a box-to-box midfielder in the mold of Patrick Vieira, but that’s always only been a quixotic yearning. There will never be another like one. Into the breach has stepped our own Ben White, playing a role we haven’t seen many (any?) players play before. While we’ve had a long time to get used to the overlapping fullbacks, White has taken the role to other dimensions entirely. Previously, full backs provided width by keeping their heels close to the touchline to offer an outlet to wingers. White has grafted to that role something closer to the box-to-box role that links defense to attack. Against Palace, he provided a clinic to devastating effect.

All of the headlines will go to Saka and Martinelli and for good reason. Saka scored twice and assisted Martinelli, becoming along the way the first player in the Prem to hit double digits for goals and assists. Martinelli is now just three goals from setting a new record for most goals scored by a Brazilian in a single season. However, we’re really here to talk about White. 

Yes, he provided the customary defense of his opposite number, largely pocketing Zaha for long stretches if not the entire match. That’s the minimum for the job description. Yes, he provided width and support by getting up the pitch to offer himself to Saka. That expands somewhat on the job description but isn’t anything special or revolutionary. 

No, instead, what White brought to this match was on another level. On at least three occasions, he threaded a pass from around midfield between Guehi (CB) and Mitchell (LB), sending Saka through on goal. How do you defend a player as dangerous as Saka is with the ball at his feet when White can find that kind of space to thread the pass? Mitchell had no choice to but mark Saka closely, and this gave White that extra yard to make that pass from distance.

How to Negate Three Defenders 101

On at least as many occasions, White had the ball just outside the 18 with Saka wide. The safe, typical, and even predictable mood would have been to open his body to the touchline and find Saka in the wide area. Instead, White either turned inside as if to pass to Trossard, Partey, or Ødegaard, or he squared up to the goal. Defenders had no idea what to expect in either case. It was from this kind of situation that White claimed the “second assist”, the pass that led to the pass that led to the goal. Having just nicked the ball from a visibly frustrated Zaha, White advances. He has Partey square, Ødegaard more central, and Saka ahead, marked more or less by three defenders. White gets Mitchell to commit to him and then feeds Saka, who turns and cuts the ball across for Martinelli to finish. Okay. So that’s “typical” of a modern fullback.

There’s more.

Needles get threaded with less precision.

For his assist on Saka’s first goal, it was Saka wide as White occupied a more-central role, closer to where we might expect to see someone like Ødegaard. Seeing Saka make a run from that wide area, White plays an inch-perfect pass past his mark and ahead of Saka, and Starboy does the rest, curling it home. We’re used to seeing a fullback get up the pitch to hoof in a cross; it’s less-common to see a fullback assume the role of a #10, creating chances from a more-central position. The man’s a menace. It’s no wonder Southgate didn’t select for this latest round of Euro qualifiers. He wouldn’t know what to do with a defender who not only defends but attacks with such incision, nevermind what Italy or Ukraine would do.

Is there a name for this new role? We know the false nine and the inverted winger. Zinchenko has created the “tucked-in” fullback position, playing almost as another box-to-box midfielder. Based on his performance against Palace—one of many thus far—White may yet coin a new position all his own. Even if he doesn’t, he’s carved out a vital role in our ever-evolving attack. How do you solve a problem like Benny Blanco? Not only does he shut down opposing wingers, he unleashes our own. Please tell me again how his transfer fee was too much or why he doesn’t get into the England squad ahead of Kieran Trippier or Kyle Walker. In the end, I don’t much mind these considerations; I’d rather our man rest rather than risk injury. Still, you know how people are. They only recognize greatness when some other, external authority confirms it. 

Eventually, and sometime soon, that other, external authority will confirm White’s evolution. It will come later than it should, but that’s better than never.

A match that forges champions was played today…

How did we go two behind to a side that had scored just 22 goals in 24 matches? It scarcely matters, but let’s give Bournemouth credit. A trick-play from kickoff resembled an onside kick in American football, with five players lining up to the left only for the ball to be played wide right and then crossed in and tapped home. 9.1 seconds in, and it felt like our title hopes had been smashed into a milllion pieces, and we just couldn’t pick them up. We crashed again and again against their eight and nine and ten men in the box, flashing shots and spurning chance after chance after chance. By the time our visitors went up 0-2, it felt like time to console ourselves with a top-four finish. And then… and then

Well, we all know what happened. Smith-Rowe headed back in from Neto’s weakly punched clearance and Partey nipped in at the back post to poke home. Scenes. Game on. Eight minutes later, it’s White tapping home from—let’s face it—what felt like an overhit cross from Nelson. Neto pawed it away beut only after it already crossed the line. Even Kavanagh, who had given us little else all day, had to confirm it. Well, that’s a point saved, then isn’t it? That will be enough to keep us level with City, at least on points…right? 

Wrong. This young squad, around which has swirled a tempest of skeptical questions and dubious punditry, refused to quit. Not a single player gave up despite the endless rejections of various penalty shouts of varying degrees of legitimacy, despite the innumerable seconds and minutes lost to time-wasting, despite the gnawing sense of doom that had to be rising. While I don’t there are many of us who can honestly say we knew our lads would find a way to win, it’s starting to feel more and more like both we and those lads know something else: we refuse to quit. Down 2-0, it might have been easy to heave a sigh of relief, sense the ebbing energy in our own legs and lungs, and reconcile ourselves to a hard-won draw against a desperate and determined opponent. 

Wrong again. It felt and sounded like every last fan in that stadium shouted and chanted and cheered until their throats bled—and then went to to double and triple the volume anyway. When was the last time the Emirates was this loud, this long, after we’d conceded twice? If anything, those fans got louder. Bournemouth’s players, instead of feeling bold and resoluted, looked more and more like panicky Uruk-hai and Orcs as the Rohirrim charge at them. Crosses were flimsy, passes misplaced, nerves were jangled. Once we found that equaliser, a win did start to feel almost inevitable.

Karma works in mysterious ways. Every time he had the ball, Neto took as many as 25 seconds before a punt, throw, or goal-kick. His teammates were just as bad with throw-ins and mysterious injuries that seemed to never need treatment. The whistles rained down because Kavanagh just wouldn’t use his. By the time he finally booked Neto (for dissent, mind, not for time-wasting), the sarcastic cheers flowed.

It’s only just then, for the second time in as many matches, that we’d score a winner in the very stoppage-time the keeper created in his desperate, cynical attempt at wasting time in the first place. Our players are either too naïve or too brave or both to believe that they’ll lose. Elsewhere around the league, rivals and their fans had to be licking their lips at the prospect of Arsenal’s failure. For more than an hour, they could savour a scoreline that would surely end with Arsenal dropping points at home to relegation fodder. The schadenfreude would be immeasurable.

Well, that part is at least true. I daresay that I haven’t scales or measuring tape or buckets capable of measuring the schadenfreude we’re feeling after Reiss Nelson (Reiss Nelson? Arsenal must be desperate) came on to assist White’s goal and then score the dramatic equaliser.

You want to talk about how young, naïve, and inexperienced this squad is? Go back and watch Nelson chests the ball down and, with two defenders rushing at him, coolly takes a touch and then just lashes the ball home, leaving Neto no chance. It would have been easy to panic, understandable even, for a young player who’d played only 80-odd minutes all season. He didn’t. No one did. 

The roar that went up was deafening, the celebrations frantic. No, we haven’t won the league. In the end, we only beat the team that sits 19th in it. Our lead over City is still a very fragile five points. Winning this match doesn’t mean we’ll win the league, although it certainly does help. What it does do is fuel an ever-deepening belief among everyone associated with this club, that something very, very special is that much closer. This is the kind of win that forges champions. They can’t all be 3-0 cakewalks. Not in this of all leagues. If we do end up hoisting that trophy for the first time since 2004, this is one match that will stand out as one in which we learned just what it takes to be champions and just much of that we have in this young, determined, wonderful squad. 

Can you believe it? Can you?

Arsenal 3-2 Bournemouth: Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???? Arsenal produced a determined, furious comeback after Bournemouth produced a stunning ninth minute goal to go ahead and then add a well-headed corner to make it 2-0. From there, it really felt like the title was slipping away. We just couldn’t get through Bournemouth’s ten men or Neto, who probably wasted a solid 15 minutes on his own. Between that and the half-dozen penalty shouts of varying degrees of legitimacy, it was starting to feel like one of those days. Then, finally, goals from Partey and White turned the game on its head. Te point might not be enough to keep us top of the table much longer, but the fightback showed enough spirit and grit to build on. Then, with the very last kick of the match, Nelson lashed it home to win. We’re still on top!!! Vote for the lads here. Real time results are here

Trossard & White tell Caicedo what to expect…

     As Arsenal attempt to convince Brighton to sell Caicdeo, they enlisted a flock of Seagulls (okay, two), and the conversation went something like this.

     Leandro Trossard, sat in front of his locker after Arsenal’s FA Cup fourth round loss to Man City, picked up his phone. “47 notifications? What’s that about?” the Belgian wondered aloud.
     “Mate, there’s all this talk of us signing Caicedo! What rock have you been under?” Ben White sat down to strip off his boots, socks, and shin guards. “It’s all anyone’s talking about. What d’you reckon?”
     “Ben, he’d be aces! I know Thomas escaped with just the rib injury, and I feel bad for Albert. He did his best, yes? But he’s not up for it just yet. It’s a big jump from the Jupiler Pro League—that’s the Belgian first division—anyway, it’s a big jump to the Prem. I struggled when I came over from Genk, and—”
“Mate, that’s perfect! Do you have Moises’ number? Ring him up straight away! He’s got to be feeling some doubts about this move, what with the numbers they’re tossin’ back and forth. I know full well that Brighton can drive a hard bargain. I know the pressure it can create. Can you reach him?”
     Trossard scrolled through his contacts until he found Caicedo. He texted, “Hey, Moises. Leandro here. Got a minute?”
     He and White waited anxious minutes. Would the Ecuadorian reply? The ticking of the clock on the wall seemed only to slow the passage of time. They each glanced up at it; in that moment, it seemed that the second hand froze before clicking ahead.
     “He’s answered!” Trossard exclaimed.
     White could scarcely contain himself. “What’s he said? C’mon!”
     “He says, ‘give me a minute.'”
     The two players, reunited only recently waited for anxious moments. Finally, after an agonisingly long delay, Trossard’s phone chimed.
     White couldn’t restrain himself. “MOISES!!! MATE! You have GOT to get over here! I’m telling you, I—”
     Trossard intervened. “Moises, I hate to rain on Ben’s parade, but you have got to get over here. I’ve not had a manager with Mikel’s vision. It’s…it’s really something. It’s on another level.”
     “Tross, I’m working on it. De Zerbi’s gone and frozen me out, just as he did to you. I don’t know what to do. They’re playing hardball.”
     White leaned in. “Mate, listen.”
     “You know what Brighton wanted for me?”
     There was a pause as Caicedo considered.
     “I’ll save you the expense. They wanted £50m. They insisted I wasn’t for sale. Guess what?”
      “Mate, look at where I am. At the Arsenal. Signing of the season, they’re sayin’. £50m.”
     There was a pause as Caicedo pondered this.
     “What do you think it’ll take for me to make this move? I don’t know if I can deal with four more months of all of this talk. It’s too much!” Caicedo’s anguish was real. 
     It was at this point that Trossard leaned in. “Mate, I was there. De Zerbi froze me out. You saw his words the other day? He’s ready to ‘move on’ without you. I’m starting to feel like you’re following in my footsteps.”
     “What’s he like? I see him on the sideline, jumping around and leaving the technical area. Does he—does he know what he’s doing?”
     White couldn’t resist. “Moises, listen to me. I’ve never had a manager like him. He…he sees the game in a way that I’ve not seen from another manager. Look: I’ve gone from one of the most over-priced transfers to one of the best transfers around. You know why? It’s down to him. He…he knows us. He knows the game. You come here, and you’ll be the next Kanté. Hell, you could displace Partey if he’s not careful. I’ve grown by leaps and bounds. Look at where we are, mate. We’re top of the league! We went into the Etihad with a rotated squad and could have won!”
     “Ben, hold off a sec,” Trossard interrupted. “Look, I know it’s no fun to be in De Zerbi’s doghouse. If you can make it over here—”
     Caicedo’s voice was rife with anguish. “I…I…look, I have family back home. I’m on £25k a week, and I know I should be happy about that, but there’s so much more I could do for my mum. I…”
     “Look, Moises. No one criticises you for your ambitions. Look at it from Brighton’s point of view, though. They’ve nabbed Ben here. They lost Graham. They lost yours truly. It’s gotta be tough to—”
     “I know. I know. I don’t—I don’t know…”
     White grabbed the phone from Trossard. “Moises, listen to me. This is the game they play. Clubs call for loyalty, but they’ll cast you off in a heartbeat. Arsenal aren’t just any club snatching up players left and right. They have a vision. I’m telling you. I’m miles ahead of where I was, miles ahead of where I thought I’d be!”
     It was Trossard’s turn to chime in. “Arteta’s the real deal. He has a vision of how to play. I’ve only been here a week or so, and I already feel something like what Ben’s saying. There’s something special going on here. It’s…what is the word? It’s…ineffable? It’s…for as good as they—for as good as we’ve been, I’m feeling like we’re only just starting to scratch the surface.”
     The line was silent. White and Trossard exchanged anxious glances. The clock ticked…and ticked…and ticked.
     “I’ll make it happen.”
     With that, the call ended.

DISGUSTING rumour on Ben White's Qatar departure circulates…

When Ben White left the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the support was just about universal. This hasn’t stopped scurrilous rumours circulating, alleging that White had a “dust-up” with England trainer Steve Holland and offering unsourced, unsubstantiated rumours that the two had come to blows after White showed up to a session unprepared for the match against the USA. None of this holds any water, and, given the possibility that White is attending to a rather-urgent family matter, it all comes across as rather unseemly, to say the least.

It’s all speculation at this point, but there’s speculative speculation, and there’s scurrilous speculation. This reeks of the latter. If it turns out that this story is in fact clickbait, I sincerely hope that those involved are sacked and are subsuquently sued for defamation, emotional distress, and any other relevant charges.

Remember that, in the wake of White’s departure, the official Arsenal Twitter account posted to say “we’re all with you, Ben”. This is at first a sincere message of support for a player dealing with an intimate family issue. On the other hand, if The Mirror are to be believed, it’s something different. If in fact there was a dust-up of some kind between White and Holland, that Arsenal tweet would imply that Holland was at fault. However, even that interpretation would validate the reckless rumour-mongering that The Daily Star and The Mirror peddle on a daily basis.

Let’s admit for a moment that Arsenal’s official Twitter account has a pro-White bias. That’s fair. That’s logical. The club should rally around the player even if there was some kind of dramatic disagreement between him and Holland. Into the fray steps the FA, not an organization known for taking controversial stands. Through arsenal.com, we read the following statement from the FA:
Ben White has left England’s training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons. The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the reaminder of the tournament. We ask that the player’s privacy is respected at this moment in time.
Those aren’t the words of an association trying to sort a dispute between an up-and-coming player who’s played zero minutes of this World Cup and an assistant coach on Holland’s level. The man’s an MBE, a Member of the Order of the British Empire. If these sources are dragging both White and Holland’s names through the mud, we should perhaps pluck some chickens and warm some tar.
What’s more, if all of this was some kind of training ground dust-up, why would White go all the way back to England? After all, the rest of the squad have been preparing for this super-elite Dubai Super Cup, and such a pedestrian manner would only lead to him jetting from Qatar to Dubai to join the rest of the lads. The fact that he went all the way back to Jolly Old implies something far more serious. 

I’m torn, honestly. On one hand, I want for only the best for Benny Blanco and his family. On the other, there’s a small, small part of me to want there to be some medical diagnosis that ends up innocuous but that still makes these bottom-feeding “journalists” look like absolute shite, maybe even getting sacked. I’m not spiteful by nature, but this clearly has me riled up. 

As one more piece of evidence, Bukayo Saka spoke out to address this and the burglary at Raheem Sterling’s home, saying “family’s the most importhing thing in life and [White and Sterling] had to go be with them. That’s what they had to do and we supported them”. A home-invasion during which one’s family members, including children, were present would not be so blithely compared to a training-ground disagreement. Whatever White is going through must be something significant, and so we’re faced with a paradox, one forced by these same leeches who call themselves journalists.
On one hand, we have to respect White’s privacy and that of his family. On the other, it’s that very same respect that creates wiggle-woom for the leeches to insinuate themselves. Absent a definitive declaration, they’re free to run rampant and peddle any sort of click-bait they can get away with, hiding it behind fig-leaves like the word “alleged” so that they’re not legally liable for libel. It’s vile, but it’s also par for the course for these outlets that prey on the smallest sign of weakness and exploit the barest whisper of scandal. It’s their stock in trade.
I would love for White and Holland to come out with a joint statement denying these rumours, but they each have more-important business to do deal with. For Holland, there’s the not-insignificant matter of a quarterfinal match against France to prepare for, and for White, there’s the potentially more-signficant personal matter to tend to. A pox on these parasitic rumour-mongers. There’s a special place in hell for them.