Mikel Arteta was full of praise for Ben White after the defender received news of his inclusion in England’s squad for the World Cup.
There had been much debate about whether the £50 million signing from Brighton would make the cut given he’d missed out on recent squads but when push came to shove, Gareth Southgate plumped for a man who has been in fine fettle this season.
While injuries to other full-backs, including Chelsea’s Reece James, probably helped his cause, Arteta was quick to play up White’s versatility. Having bedded in at the Emirates as a centre-back the 25-year-old has made the right-back position his own since August.
Facing the media ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Wolves, Arteta said: “I think he was very happy. The rest of the staff and players, they were so happy for him. He fully deserves it and you could see it was a big moment for him
“All the credit is down to him, what he’s done, you look at his career and how far he’s come in a very short period of time, it says everything about the person, the player, his ambition and especially the consistency that he’s achieved over the last few years.”
On whether asking White to play at right-back ended up playing to the player’s advantage, he continued: “We have discussed that [positional change] and every player needs some time and to understand the reasons why.
“I think he’s really enjoying it and it brings him other opportunities and being a versatile player, I think is something rare in this world. He’s got the capacity to fulfil that.”
So far, Arsenal have had nine players selected for the World Cup; White, Saka, Ramsdale (England), Turner (USA), Saliba (France) and Tomiyasu (Japan), as well as Brazilian pair Jesus and Martinelli. Unfortunately, there was bad news for Gabriel Magalhaes.
On how the 24-year-old has coped with the news that he won’t feature in Qatar, the boss said:
“The boys have been really good with each other, we knew how much it meant to big Gabi to be selected for the national team but unfortunately there wasn’t the space this time. The good news is that he’s really young and he will have other opportunities, you have to respect those decisions and carry on your career.”
Arteta also revealed he’d like to watch his players in action for their countries in person, but he wasn’t sure whether Arsenal’s schedule will allow it. The Gunners are expected to be on a training camp nearby in Dubai but with friendly matches planned, opportunities to dip in and out will likely be limited.
“I would like to [go] but I don’t know if I’ll be able to,” he said. “I would like to experience that, I would like to watch a few games, watch our players live but I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do it.”