Kolo Toure, Johan Djourou, Thomas Vermaelen, Calum Chambers…over the years there has always been a clamour from some quarters to stick a ball-playing centre-back in the heart of the action when Arsenal have been short of numbers in midfield.
Short-lived experiments have taken place – Toure started life as a utility player before moving back to defence and Emery flirted with using Chambers higher up the pitch – but by and large, the calls have fallen on deaf ears.
But what about Benjamin White, could the 23-year-old be a short-term answer to Arsenal’s midfield issues if Covid, injury and AFCON-related absentees continue through until February? After all, the £50 million summer signing arrived at the Emirates with a CV burnished with midfield experience at both Leeds and Brighton
“It’s an option that we have,” said Arteta ahead of his side’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg with Liverpool.
“He’s played there [midfield] before, as a central defender, he’s played as a right-back, as part of a three. That’s one of the positive things with Ben[jamin], that he has the capacity to play in different roles.”
For what it’s worth, we doubt it’ll happen unless there’s an in-game emergency (red card, injury, etc.).
For the time being, the club is attempting to solve its issues in the transfer market. Interestingly, having spent the close season proactively recruiting players under the age of 24, it’s not gone unnoticed that some of the names linked this month have more experience. For example, Juventus’ midfielder Arthur – tipped to make a loan move – is 25 and a full international with Brazil.
Pressed on whether Arsenal remain focused on signing up-and-coming talent, Arteta said: “The project has different phases and in each phase, we have to accomplish certain targets and objectives.
“When you start to remodel the squad into a much healthier position, that’s the moment you can evolve and start to make other decisions in relation to a lot of things that have happened, it’s not just the intention, it’s about what happens with many other players.”
It stands to reason that if Bernd Leno, Mo Elneny, Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari, Sead Kolasinac, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin and Alex Lacazette leave in the summer, Arsenal may well look for a couple of older heads to balance the squad profile. While young players are exciting, we also know experience still counts at key moments of the season.