Mikel Arteta says Ben White’s character and his ability on and off the ball were key factors in his decision to sign the centre-back from Brighton this summer.
After a Covid-interrupted start to life at the Emirates, the £50 million recruit has shown clear signs that he’s growing in confidence having formed a strong partnership in defence with Gabriel.
Despite being a doubt for tomorrow’s clash with Leicester due to a stomach bug, the 24-year-old’s form and development were key themes of the manager’s pre-game press conference.
“Obviously, we wanted to recruit somebody that could straightaway and naturally adapt to the way we want to play,” said Arteta when asked about what the player brings to the team.
“Ben had all the qualities that we were looking for. He’s happy to defend open spaces, he’s really good in duels, he has a huge personality to play the way we demand and to make the process with the ball in different ways against different kinds of press, or when they don’t press and he has time on the ball to make the right decisions.
“And he has the anger and I really liked his character when I met him and that’s why we made the decision to sign him.”
White caused a stir last week when he admitted that he wasn’t particularly interested in watching football in his spare time. For his part, Arteta, a dedicated student of the game, made clear that it’s not something that concerns him nor something he would force on a player.
“There are phases in a career of a footballer that he goes through where there is more focus on other things than football,” said the boss.
“I met people who don’t watch a lot of football but they watch all their games three times and others who don’t want to watch themselves play but can watch any other game. You have to find the right balance.
“For me, the important thing is that he shows the passion to play the game every single day, to train and to have the enjoyment of playing football, which he has, and then the way he competes and the way he wants to improve.
“If we think this [watching other games] is better, it’s something we’ll discuss with him but at the moment, what he’s doing is working fine for him.”
He added: “It has to come naturally, like anything. If you force a player to do something he’s not interested in outside here, it’s very, very difficult.
“Hopefully, you can fit something within his body that can create, okay, I want to start to look at this in a different way, in a different league, in a different team and try to fill that sheet. Sometimes it happens.”