There’s only one place to start this morning, which is with the official signing of Ben White confirmed by the club. He’ll wear the number four shirt and when speaking to the Arsenal fan that interviewed him yesterday, I think he came across really well and he’s clearly very happy to be here. It is a pretty meteoric rise for a guy who three year’s ago was at Newport County on loan, so it’s understandable that the player is delighted, saying “to be here is absolutely unbelievable”, talking about how he’s known about the interest since training in the England camp and he’s also known the deal was done for some time too, forcing his parents and friends to keep schtum about it as he was on holiday.
We’ve talked and talked and talked about this one and so it feels like there’s probably little else to say on the matter, but as a final wrap up before we move on to other things, it’s clear why we’ve signed him. Arteta wants that player who can step out of the ball in defence and open up different angles. Think back to last season, when we gave David Luiz the ball and he – at walking pace – slowly trotted forward looking for that long, rangy pass to one of our front line. Often it was cut out, often Luiz looked like he was just holding on to the ball for too long. But that was because teams just man-for-manned us when Luiz had the ball and we were nullified.
If you read my stuff regularly you’ll know I have a Leeds fan at my work and yesterday it just so happened we were back in the office and went out for a leaving drinks afterwards. What he said was that the one thing White will do is carry the ball out from defence. So put one of those ‘Luiz walking with the ball’ situations in your head again. Now imagine you’ve White in that position. He isn’t looking for that eye of a needle pass. He’s going to drive the ball forward out of defence until somebody closes him down. That, in turn, pulls apart opponents and the shape they have when they don’t have the ball and are trying to frustrate us. So you can see why Arsenal want this move. The price is of course about £10million too much, but that’s the British player tax you pay I guess.
So we move on to other rumours, one of which has got a little warmer this morning, as James from the Athletic has written about this morning. A clear Lacazette replacement, I didn’t put much stock in the move and I still probably don’t, to be honest. He would cost a lot and I just don’t think we’ll be spending £70million+ on a striker unless we’re offloading. And we all know that we’ve had trouble selling this summer. Inter don’t really want to pay for Bellerin, Roma don’t really want to pay for Xhaka and nobody seems interested in Nketiah. We have had the most minor of rumours for Lacazette but nothing to suggest that he’s on the way out. So whilst it probably is less likely to happen unless a number of planets align perfectly, the positive news is that we have at least spoken to Inter Milan about the player and the player himself would apparently be keen according to the article.
The brinkmanship continues though. I can’t see how the rumours of a new deal for Bellerin or Xhaka are anything other than noise designed to make our hand look a little stronger. Both players have unofficially been keen to make an exit this summer and we’ve been keen to move them on for some cash. But if we’re going to get nonsense on a fee from Roma, then let’s make our own bit of nonsense up about a new deal. At 28 he’s not going to get better, we do need to move on from the type of player he is, but by making these gestures we’re telling Roma “we’re not playing here. Pay the money or we will carry on our journey with Granit”. And do you know what? I’d be absolutely fine with that. Towards the end of the season he struck up a good partnership with Partey, we could have him in the squad as a player who helps to ensure too much pressure is put on Lokonga, whilst at the same time the Belgian can slowly assimilate the minutes Xhaka gets as his own, eventually taking over the reigns from the Swiss international, to give us a more seamless transition. That would work a-ok for me.
It also shows sense that we are not the ones under pressure to sell. Next summer we probably will be if the new deal noises turn out to be false. But we have a decent midfield with Xhaka in it and in Lokonga we have an upgrade of a deputy compared to Ceballos last season.
Although I don’t want us to give Xhaka a new deal, the talk and the fact he’s back in training does make me calmer about our midfield though. If he can play some part tomorrow for the friendly against Chelski then all the better. I suspect he’ll most likely be given minimal minutes if that happens, but if we can get him ready for the Brentford game, then great.
We still do need to get that other creative attacking player sorted, which I kind of am hoping is Odegaard because I think we saw glimpses of the talent we could get last season, but I suspect that will need to drag on towards the end of the window before anything happens. For now, Edu needs to get his selling face on and start to offload some of those players who are surplus to requirements. And we’ve got a few of those.
Catch you all tomorrow for a match preview.