Mikel Arteta says he’s delighted to have Ben White and Thomas Partey back playing for Arsenal and says Granit Xhaka could well be involved in Saturday’s friendly clash with Juventus.
White and Partey joined their teammates in Dubai at the weekend and both featured for 45 minutes as the Gunners secured a 2-1 win over AC Milan to claim victory in the Dubai Super Cup.
While White, who left England’s World Cup camp for “personal reasons”, hasn’t kicked a ball in anger since Arsenal beat Wolves in the Premier League a month ago, Partey featured in all of Ghana’s three World Cup group matches and a pre-tournament friendly.
Neither was at their best against Stefano Piolo’s mix-and-match Milan but they still have another couple of weeks to get up to speed before Arteta’s side faces West Ham United on Boxing Day.
Facing the media at the Al Maktoum Stadium, Arteta was quizzed on White’s reintegration and seemed to think we know more than we actually do.
“I’m very pleased, everybody has been giving him a lot of support and love which is what he needed,” he said.
“You know the reasons why he had to leave the camp, and we are delighted to have him back and have him in really good shape.”
We actually haven’t got a clue what happened to White in Qatar and frankly, we don’t care. He’s back with Arsenal and he’s in one piece.
Pressed on whether he’s sat down with White to discuss things, Arteta continued: “I have been having conversations with every single player that went to the World Cup to understand where they are – not only me but all the players and the staff are trying to give support when someone needs it.”
Like Gareth Southgate, he refused to give credence to a story that was circulated by a particularly pernicious tabloid.
“We can’t control that, but I know who Ben is, what he needs and what his character is and how happy we all are to have him at the club.”
The boss found it easier going talking about midfielder Partey.
“He played a lot [at the World Cup] and obviously he was disappointed at the way that he had to leave, but it happens to every nation when they go out, and it takes a few days to reset and start to focus on the team.
“The good thing we have is that everyone has been showing that they are desperate to get back, and they want to be ready as quickly as possible and it was great to have those two back today playing some minutes.”
As things stand, only William Saliba remains on international duty. Matt Turner and Granit Xhaka have returned to training, Takehiro Tomiyasu is set to join suit while Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli will spend a few more days chilling by the pool.
“That’ll take a few more days,” said Arteta when asked when everyone will get together.
“Granit is already here, and is training and willing to participate on the weekend, so we don’t have that many away now so that is a positive thing.”
Arsenal travelled to Dubai with 13 kids from the academy, many of whom got minutes on the pitch either against Lyon or Milan.
Arteta took a moment to thank them for their efforts as they’ve been keeping the senior players on their toes.
“We’ve been lucky because we’ve brought a lot of kids here, but what they have done is not only maintain the standards, but increase them, so I want to say thank you so much to them because they have been key in this camp to have a successful period in training and compete in the competition.
“We have to raise the standards. We discussed the things that we are doing really well, and it is not a coincidence the way we have been performing but if we want to challenge at the top, we have to improve certain things.”