Morning folks, hope we all good this Friday? With no Arsenal this weekend on account of the FA Cup matches taking place (which will push our game against Chelsea in to April as part of our mega fixture congestion), you’d think there would be little to talk about, but you’d be wrong. Step forward the Benjamin White situation.

Firstly and most pleasingly, there was the announcement that he’s signed a new contract at The Arsenal. Much like Aaron Ramsdale, this contract announcement got a really nice and heartfelt video where his teammates talked about him and what he brings to the club:

When I first watched it I thought “ahh, that’s nice. Lovely to see. Then the official site had a nice little interview which you can see here, as well as the usual pictures and text which is here. We’ve known about it for a while, I think Romano tweeted about it ages ago, but the club finally announced it and we can all be glad. But it was only until later on in the day that many started to conclude that this was a very rehearsed and precise reason why the announcement was made yesterday, because on the same day Gareth Southgate announced his England team and spoke specifically about the Ben White situation. We all know he left for ‘personal reasons’ in 2022 and there wasn’t much coming out at that time, although there have been a few stories around that time talking about a bust up. Depending on who you read and believe, it was because either he had a bust up with Grealish, or that he had a bust up with England Coach Steve Holland. The story seems to go in a couple of directions but two prevailing theories are:

  • Steve Holland argued and questioned Ben White because of the fact he said he doesn’t watch football
  • Steve Holland argued because Ben White didn’t watch the preparation training videos, because Ben White thought they were pointless and he was being targeted in the squad.

I suspect as always there is a little truth and a little embellishment in these stories, but I find it very off that a player of White’s calibre, who Arteta absolutely loves, would refuse to do any background research because he doesn’t care or because he just can’t be arsed. Firstly, if that attitude was displayed at any time whilst playing for Arsenal, I think we all know that Ben White would get the Aubameyang treatment from Arteta. This is a manager who values the ‘estandards’ and the drive and determination more than anyone else. I bet Arteta is even stricter with his players on knowing all the details. So for Ben White to do that at England level seems like a bit of a joke to me. Here’s Ben White talking about how he cried when he got his England call up. This isn’t a man who doesn’t care. This isn’t a man who won’t do everything in his power to play for England. Heck, this is a man who plays through injury, has been described as a warrior and for anyone to question his integrity as a professional should be ashamed of themselves.

Something is fishy here. I smell some bullsh*t and I don’t think it’s coming from Ben White.

This is coming from Gareth Southgate and his camp. Here’s his interview he did in full, which includes the context of the way the question was asked and I will say to Southgate’s credit, he didn’t instigate the discussion. He was asked specifically about Ben White and so he responded. But there are ways of responding. He played the magnanimous manager card and said “the door is always open”, but what he could have said was “the door is always open, but for now he continues to not be available to us and I don’t want to discuss what is a personal matter”. But instead he decided to go in on how he had a call from Edu, told that White didn’t want to be considered, etc. Clearly what Southgate is trying to do is put this all on Ben White and focus the attention on it being his decision. But why would a guy who has openly admitted he was desperate to play for England, suddenly decide that he doesn’t want to be selected?

Southgate refuted claims that there was an issue with Steve Holland, but having watched what he was saying again this morning, I am going to 100% say that I do not believe that Southgate was telling the truth. He is defending his coaching team and doubling down on that, which you’d expect him to, but by name checking Steve Holland too, it seems to me that this is fairly obvious that something has happened with that coach, which leads you to start re-looking at the above and when you again think about Ben White at The Arsenal, it feels like this has everything to do with Steve Holland. Gareth Southgate is telling porkies and Ben White is the victim, because now all of the headlines today are about Ben White snubbing England. It hits his own image and Southgate has been the instigator of it. So now we see why Arsenal went in to bat for their man and we saw the lovely media that went on the website on the same day Southgate decided to try to torch Ben White and his reputation, all the while playing the “no issue from us, he’s always welcome” spiel.

Screw Gareth Southgate. Screw Steve Holland. Ben doesn’t need you because he has an army of Arsenal fans behind him and we’ll back our lad all day long.

The up side is that White gets time with his friends and family and he’ll also get more time to prep for this intense period we’re about to go through. If we get time to rest up Ben and have him on full power for the last couple of months of the season, happy days, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll leave it there for today I think. Back tomorrow with some more Arsenal musings no doubt. You guys have a good one.