Mikel Arteta laments Xhaka injury blow for Arsenal
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Arsenal defender Ben White continues to show why Mikel Arteta was right to splash the cash on him this summer after another solid defensive display in the 0-0 draw with Brighton on Saturday. The 23-year-old made his return to his former club following his £50million move to north London in the summer.
Brighton’s best chance came in the first-half when Lewis Dunk fired over from just six yards.
Arsenal should have scored when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came closest for Arsenal when he rounded Seagulls goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, but Shane Duffy was there to stick a leg out and prod the ball for a corner.
Arteta made just one enforced change from the side that beat Tottenham 3-1 on Sunday, with Albert Sami Lokonga replacing the injured Granit Xhaka in the starting line-up.
After a difficult debut at Brentford in the Premier League curtain raiser, and a spell out of the team through Covid-19, White has turned his form around dramatically.
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Arsenal were under immense pressure for long spells in the first-half, but White, with the help of his defensive partner Gabriel Magalhaes, ensured the Gunners kept Brighton at bay.
The defender made more clearances than any other Arsenal player in the first-half, while no player made more ball recoveries than the centre-back.
White kept the dangerous Neal Maupay under wraps and made sure he didn’t add to his four goal Premier League tally for the Seagulls.
Arsenal weren’t overly impressive on the day, but White was one of the shining lights for the Gunners.
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Many were questioning the decision to splash so much money on the defender, with many comparing the move with Manchester United’s purchase of Raphael Varane for £43m.
But speaking ahead of White’s return to his former club, Arteta said he thinks the defender has the potential to be ‘extraordinary’.
“We bought him because we believe that he can be extraordinary and he doesn’t have that much experience in the league still,” said Arteta.
“He has experience with Leeds, and the experience he had with Brighton for a year, so he is not mature in that sense.
“But he is already shown his qualities and what he can do and he has been selected for the national team, which is not a coincidence and the way he has adapted to us I think is impressive so the potential is there. Again it is how he can fulfil that and help him to do so.
“They [the fans] are really supportive. We have two really young central defenders, in general our backline is 22, 23, 23 and 24 years old – which is unusual – but they have the right maturity because they have different experiences. I think they complement each other really well.
“He [White] knows he will be asked questions and in this league for sure because it is one of the most demanding positions to play and at the moment he is doing it.
“He has to defend first and everything we have ask him to do defensively to do it, and that’s his biggest task.
“After that we bought him because he has that ability to break lines, to progress the ball the way we want it. He has that composure and calmness to make the right decision. But first of all he needs to defend and I think he is doing that really, really well.”
The defender is calm and assured and it looks as if he has a bright future ahead of him at the Emirates.
Eyebrows were raised when the Gunners paid such a hefty fee for the former Brighton defender, but White is already proving why Arteta went out and signed him in the summer.
Next up for Arsenal is Crystal Palace at the Emirates on September 18 following the international break in what will be the first of two league games in four days for Arteta’s side.
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