Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are slowly beginning to turn their fortunes around, after their latest Premier League win in the north London derby against Tottenham
Arsenal’s north London win over Tottenham seemed to have justified a decision made by Mikel Arteta in the summer transfer window.
The Gunners eased past Spurs 3-1 and claimed bragging rights over their arch enemies, while they also leapfrogged them in the table.
Emile Smith Rowe got things going after just 12 minutes when he opened the scoring for Arsenal, before goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka ensured the Gunners went into half-time three goals to the good.
Spurs did pull a goal back when Aaron Ramsdale could only palm Heung-min Son’s shot into the net, and Lucas Moura hit the crossbar with an effort in injury time, but it was too little too late for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
Everybody on the pitch impressed for the Gunners on the day, but one particular player stood out and had his best game in an Arsenal shirt so far. And that was centre-back Ben White.
The 23-year-old arrived for a hefty fee of £50million from Brighton in the summer, which caused some fans to raise eyebrows over the decision, but the defender’s performance against Spurs seemingly went a long way to justifying that decision.
White commanded the Arsenal defence, and had an excellent game alongside Brazilian defender Gabriel, who also looked confident and assured on the ball.
With Son threatening to get in behind the Arsenal backline all game, White was left with the responsibility of making sure that didn’t happen, and at one point he came charging across and timed a slide tackle on the South Korea international to perfection.
The defensive pairing have only played together three times this season – in games against Norwich, Burnley and Tottenham – and had it not been for Ramsdale’s disappointing mistake on Sunday then the duo would have kept clean sheets in all three games.
Arteta himself admitted he ‘wanted 3-0, but they [Spurs] made the game in the last few minutes very interesting’.
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“The body language between these two teams is the difference,” Upson said. “Ben White’s decisive, aggressive tackle, set the tone of the game.”
Arteta was left defending White and the Arsenal defence after his difficult debut against Brentford in the season opener, but it’s all changed since then.
But even then it can be argued the defence as a whole was to blame, rather than White being singled out largely due to his price tag.
“Yes, he can improve [in the air], but he won many aerial duels against him in the game as well,” Arteta told Sky Sports .
“You are highlighting the ones he didn’t win but Toney will win headers against any defender in this league because that’s a big quality of his.
“You have to accept that it’s an area of the pitch where if you concede those headers, it obviously becomes more dangerous for the team. But he had a good debut.
“He hadn’t trained a lot. Bukayo Saka couldn’t feature from the start and he was in the same training plan as Ben but Ben made a big effort.
“Physically, he’s still not where he needs to be, but I think he has had a positive start.”
Arteta continued: “Ben is an exceptional defender. He can play in a back four, he’s very comfortable playing in a back three, he’s got the league experience, he’s quick, he’s agile, he’s really aggressive in duels.
“And then, with the ball, he’s got special qualities that I needed for the way we play, to make all the processes better and for us to be composed and dominant in games like we want to be.”
Arteta was confident he had a good defender on his hands and now fans are starting to see it for themselves.
Now looks White a different player – calm and assured – especially with the support of Gabriel alongside him, and the pair will want to build on their impressive performances in recent weeks.
White is certainly starting to look like money well spent for Arteta and Edu as the Gunners slowly begin to turn their fortunes around.