Mikel Arteta says Ben White’s versatility should be seen as an advantage when it comes to selecting an England squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
Despite playing regularly for the Gunners this season, the 24-year-old has been overlooked by Gareth Southgate for the upcoming Interlull and must be aware that time is running out to turn the head of the Three Lions boss.
Is it counting against the defender that he’s being asked to play at right-back by Arteta rather than in his preferred role in the centre of defence? Arteta certainly doesn’t think so.
“He’s played in both positions, sometimes he’s been selected, sometimes not,” said the boss ahead of Sunday’s trip to Brentford.
“I think to have versatile players that can play at the level that Ben can in both positions – central defender and full-back – is, in my opinion, something that any manager wants especially when you go for a tournament where anything can happen.
“That’s Gareth’s decision and his coaching staff’s, what I can tell you is that when Ben gets the call, he will be ready.”
That Harry Maguire has been given the nod ahead of White is particularly galling given the player’s poor form and lack of minutes for Manchester United. It certainly seems to run contrary to Southgate’s usual policy of only selecting players who are playing regularly for their clubs.
“I don’t know, you guys [in the media] take every time, word by word, every time we say something. Look, Gareth picks the best team, the best squad he believes for now. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the case in November, the squad that they have available is just incredible. Everything that we can do to help Ben, we are trying to do so. I think Ben is giving a lot of reasons to be selected.”
The boss is obviously very pleased with White’s willingness and ability to play multiple roles and he firmly believes the £50 million signing enjoys varying things up.
“When we are thinking about doing something to maximise the resources we have in the squad, to have some connection and other options to play the way we want to play, we have to have certainty that the player is happy to do so and that he feels capable to do that. If not, it is just a waste of time. So it has to go both ways, I have those discussions with Ben, he’s always been very open.
“I think he’s really enjoying playing in that position and that’s why he’s been doing so well. I think it’s great for him, at his age, to be involved in other positions.”