Ben White is going from strength to strength at Arsenal. Suffering a forgettable league debut away at Brentford, there have been steady improvements with each week as he beds into his surroundings and adapts to the manager’s style.
With seven games of the season down, the solidity at the back that has arisen since White began partnering Gabriel has been the strongest aspect of the campaign.
Only starting four matches next to one another, they’ve conceded just the solitary goal and managed the respective threats of the Kane/Son combo, Burnley’s long balls and Brighton’s pressing admirably.
A quiet character in general, at least from the outside looking in, it makes it more impressive that White has forged this partnership with a teammate where there is a clear language barrier. He must have admired some of the great centre-back down the years to model his game on.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Benjamin White not watching football as his time away from Arsenal can be spent however he wants – it doesn’t matter
Speaking to Sky Sports, White made a surprise claim. One that upset the fervent football fan whose life is utterly dedicated to knowing every single thing about the sport: he doesn’t watch football. Never has.
“Football is so intense,” he said. “You come in every day giving 100 per cent. All I want to do is go home and not think about it, then come in in the morning fresh and ready to give 100 per cent again.
“I watch myself for analytical reasons. I watch England, maybe, but I’m always busy doing something. I wouldn’t just sit down and watch a game.
“I didn’t ever watch football when I was younger. I still don’t now. I just loved the game, I was always playing it, never watching. So I don’t know too much about the older generations, but I know Vieira was a very good player. But I don’t know the details.”
How dare he have a profession and not take that profession home and worship it? You finish your day of work and proceed to do something else? Shameful behaviour.
Some of the backlash faced is quite remarkable. It may (has) shock(ed) a few, but not all footballers watch and study football as religiously as fans do. Their working lives are spent in a high-intensity field where the spotlight is always on them. They too need to ‘switch off’. White is being honest. It’s refreshing.
It can also be beneficial. The social media world of football is aggressive, violent and abusive, so not being entangled in that web of noise will help him compartmentalise his working and non-working life.
And does it really matter? Of course it doesn’t. While there is this golden mirage of the perfect footballer who finishes training and does 2,000 keepie uppies in his back garden before switching on Ligue 2 football for the night, it doesn’t exist in the abundance may believe.
You can be an exceptional crossing guard. Cars are kept in check and children are safe under your watch. Your free time is then not spent ushering ducks into the local pond while cyclists dismount at your command. A formula one driver doesn’t go straight home, clear his floor and hot wheels from one side of the carpet to the other.
So long as White continues to be the brilliant footballer he is, there is nothing to discuss. He’s been playing football his whole life, had to deal with a damaged immune system as a kid. The desire to play and to improve remains strong. That’s all that matters. It’s a non-issue.
Just don’t ask him to be on your sport pub quiz team.