Mikel Arteta says hard work on the training ground has been the key to Ben White’s impressive form with the centre-back confounding the critics who rounded on him after his dubious Arsenal debut at Brentford in August.
During the opening day 2-0 defeat at the Community Stadium, White was bullied in the air by Bees striker Ivan Toney leading many to question the £50 million price paid by the Gunners to Brighton in the summer.
Since the rocky start, the 24-year-old has become a fixture in Mikel Arteta’s defence – no player has started more games for the Gunners this season – and contributed to a noteworthy run of 11 clean sheets that have served as the bedrock for the club’s push up the table.
Ahead of the return fixture with Brentford, Arteta was asked to reflect on White’s development. He couldn’t have been more wholesome in his praise.
“It’s the way Ben reacted after that game,” said the Spaniard. “He has a big personality and he has courage; to play, to make decisions, to step in front. When he’s not feeling 100 per cent good, he still wants to train every day and he does it like the best. And the same when he wants to compete.
“In the long run, that takes you to a nice place, for sure. I think Ben is where he is today because of everything he’s done in the last few months. To achieve it is not a coincidence. It’s the work that he puts in every single day.”
Eyebrows were raised when White went public with the fact he watches very little football in his spare time, but Arteta has never questioned the player’s dedication to his craft. Quite the opposite in fact.
“He’s improved a lot in a lot of things,” said the boss. “In the end, how he’s being perceived is very important for the individual, what they think of me? And, if that’s relevant then you have to make yourself very aware of it and you have to transmit what you want to be.
“I’m telling you, you watch him train every day and you’ll be amazed. I think he’s playing a final every day in training sessions. That’s what we want from our players because when it comes to competing, that’s when you’re going to be ready.”
It remains to be seen whether White gets the chance to renew acquaintances with Toney. Brentford’s main attacking threat has been struggling with a calf issue and is a doubt for the match.