BEN WHITE IS A GUNNER!

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Image via @Arsenal

Arsenal made Ben White their third signing of the summer in a deal worth £50m. It’s a monster transfer fee and a massive bet from Edu and Arteta. The player will pick up the #4, a legendary number at the club, and hope to take us back to past glories.

So what is all the fuss about with Ben?

Whether you like it or not, for an Arteta system to thrive, we need a ball playing centre back. It’s not a secondary consideration. David Luiz was the player that best reflected the profile of defender we need, the coaching staff believed him to be our best defender, and it’s hard to disagree when you look out how our attacking play was dented with him out of the team.

Remember the mission for the summer? Reduce errors in the system by half, become 20% more clinical down the other end of the pitch.

The gamble on Ben White is that he has the core skills David Luiz has. He’s supremely confident on the ball, so passing out of the back will be more comfortable. He also has the ability to drive passes through the lines, a part of our game that really struggles when Rob Holding steps in. His most impressive attribute is how he literally carries the ball up the pitch like a midfielder.

The biggest difference between him and David Luiz? About 11 years. Those 11 years are the difference between slow and fast which is reflected in red cards and sloppy penalties. If you want to reduce errors in the system, signing a ball playing centre back that can run is a good start. 11 years is also the difference between, ‘I’ve been there, done it and I can’t be arsed’… and ‘I have it all to prove, and I will go to war for this club.’ David Luiz was a bit above Arsenal. He’d won it all, played for the greatest managers, and just didn’t fancy it in certain games. Remember the West Ham game last season? He didn’t show up. Remember the City game when he was benched? Luiz is an immense person to have on your team in big games, but if things aren’t perfect for him, he can be a disaster. You always knew which player had showed up after 12 minutes. We deserve a player that will always show up.

Ben White needs to solve for the above.

I like the idea on paper. It’s a pricey one, but if you want Arsenal to get back to the top, these are the sort of deals you need to do. United signed Harry McGuire and everyone laughed at them, it’s not so funny now, is it? Big clubs invest in big positions. The major question is whether this guy can make the jump, but I like his character. Binned by Southampton, sent out on loan to Peterborough, Newport, then Leeds where he played nearly every game on their way to the title. Then a big season at Brighton where he landed a call-up. He’s starred for two highly technical managers with very different systems. That shows his intelligence and ability to adapt. It hasn’t been a straight shot to the top, nor has it been guaranteed… but for me, if you’ve slummed it, when something big comes along, you grab it.

Mike Arteta is very excited about the move.

“Ben was a top target for us and it’s great that we’ve completed his signing. Ben has been educated with two very good clubs, Brighton and Leeds, in recent seasons. He has benefitted well from two very good coaching set-ups and has shown with both Brighton and on loan with Leeds what a strong talent he is.

“Ben is an intelligent defender who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and his style fits perfectly with us. And of course, he is still young, so his age and profile fits with what we are building here. We are all looking forward to Ben being central to our future long-term plans.

This transfer has to work for the manager. It’s a huge move and it makes the team he has now very much his own. Now it’s time to deliver. We need to see speed through the team, we want to see more variety in our play, and we want all that with the same level of defensive security we’ve had for the last 18 months.

There’s some other news doing the rounds regarding Xhaka. Amy Lawrence suggesting Roma are messing around and we’re going to offer him a new deal to protect value.

Sorry, what?

Protect the value of a player no one wants to buy for another 5 years? If he doesn’t leave, it’ll be a really dark moment in our summer. He’s a good player, but his limitations can’t continue to be propped up by special strategies. We need to move him on and bring in someone like Bruno Guimarães. I also struggle to see Xhaka wanting to stay, surely he’s done with Arsenal? Hopefully, this is just the standard negotiations tactic from Arsenal.

Finally, St. Louis is suing Stan K for £700m. Daniel Ek thinks that might result in Kroenke selling. I have my doubts.

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BEN WHITE NEARS AS BROADER MARKET STRUGGLES

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We’re going to BREEZE through the news today because there’s a real lack of it.

BEN WHITE was spotted sneaking out of Colney yesterday. The English centre back, who wears white suits, and would definitely make a pass at your mum, looks set to join in a deal that is pretty damn mind-blowing for a club that was so skint last year they were growing vegetables on pitch 6 to stock the canteen.

So are we hyped for Ben? Absolutely. I’ve been breathing in some elite propaganda from around the internet and I’m all in on this lad.

Firstly, my uncle is a huge Leeds fan, he said the player had no real weaknesses, bar aerially, but he’s not shocking. ‘He’s a Rolls Royce of a defender, son’ is what he said.

Mr Bielsa won the Championship with the centre back playing nearly every game, conceding 35 goals across 46 games. Pretty decent when you consider how Leeds play.

More propaganda? Foden and Saka were asked who’d impressed them the most at training camp, they both picked Ben White. He wasn’t even in the full squad, so he must have been doing something right. How about Sergio Ramos IDing the player when he was on loan at Newport?

How about some data to inject right into the HYPE part of your brain? Chun Hang penned this piece over at Medium. I’ll steal one of his graphs.

Ben White isn’t just a good passer that can move the ball out the back with precision under pressure. He’s basically a midfielder that prefers defending.

‘Perhaps the real reason White is sought after by many is due to his ability on the ball. The defender exudes a sense of calmness as he strides down the pitch with the ball from box to box. His pace alongside his ball control has makes him untouchable at times, with defenders struggling to put a foot through him as he dribbles with the ball. His ball progression abilities help the Seagulls get the entire team up the pitch, instantly creating overloads which causes teams problems. Last season, White completed 0.69 dribbles per90, which is only second to his team-mate Dan Burn (0.74 per90), who played the majority of the season as a left wingback.’

David Luiz had this skill that was much more effective when he was younger, but imagine Arsenal having a centre back that can has progressive pass numbers up there with Harry McG, combined with the ability to break the lines on his own by moving at speed with tight control? That is a bag of unpredictability we don’t have at the moment. Arteta and Edu appear to be adding players all over the pitch that move the ball faster and give the team more options. Very good stuff.

We still need to move on other positions, the CAM is absolutely key. The ITK that dropped the Madders news is now backtracking that Arsenal might prefer to spend more money elsewhere, so he might not land at Arsenal. Makes sense, it’s what most of us suspected. Martin Odegaard for £35m seems much better value at this point and the stories coming out of Spain suggest the player love Madrid but he feels better at Arsenal.

I also want to clarify the idea that Odegaard can’t pick up positions out wide. He picked up 6 goals and 6 assists there during his spell at Vitesse. I’m pretty sure he’s said that he likes to operate there because he can attack more. Anyway, point being, there’s more flex in his game than people give credit.

No movement on a backup keeper, our right-backs are all still here, Xhaka still hasn’t moved… it’s very, very slow out there. Hard to be too savage on Edu, you can’t complain about the lack of sales if he’s telling clubs to f*ck off with their derisory bids. There’s not a lot of players moving at the moment, we’re either going to have a slow summer in general, or things will heat up as club look to deal with the savage deflationary pressures in the game. I suspect one of the things the club are cognizant of is our bloated squad and what that did to the club at the start of last summer… better to keep Xhaka than sign his replacement and have him benched. We need to have a lean squad come the end of the window so everyone feels they have a chance to play. Bloated positions combined with big names without squad numbers nearly ended Arteta last time around, there will be no such errors in this system this time… which is why I have big doubts on us spending on a right-back as things stand.

Anyway… let’s see if there’s big news coming.

Let’s see if there’s a Friday news drop. Until then, check out the podcast OR the video.

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FOUR STANDOUT PERFORMERS AGAINST WATFORD

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Arsenal smashed Watford 4-1 in a fairly simple outing.

The intensity of the game certainly wasn’t at Premier League level and Watford really looked a bit sad at times… but you can only play what is put in front of you and as afternoon’s go, it was pretty decent.

I won’t deep-dive the game too hard, but there were some standouts.

Sambi Lokonga: The 21-year-old looks very sharp. He picked up where he left off in the last game and took control in midfield. He seems like quite a big personality, loads of swagger on the pitch, he looks like he belongs. He also answers a very clear problem, namely, we are very slow at transitioning the ball forward. He brings all the control of Xhaka, but he does everything a little faster and with more ambition. I really like how he sits outside the edge of the opposition box and connects with runners. The one-touch passing is a delight as well. Very promising, he’ll be an important player quicker than we thought.

Eddie Nkeitiah: I’ve been quite critical of Eddie. He’s been a great finisher, but outside that, he can be anonymous in games in terms of contribution to the overall play. Out on the left, he showed that he has a lot of really positive attributes. He ran at the Watford backline, he pressed when needed, and he showed up with a great goal, cutting in and curling a shot into the far corner. I suspect he’ll be sold, I just wish he’d gone out on loan last season. That’s up to the player though, he chose to stay like Reiss and wasted a year of development.

Thomas Partey: He’s the boss in that midfield now. He showed off his range of passing and vision. He looked fit. He looked like the big boy in the playground who has decided based off zero evidence he’s peak-Juninho with long-range shooting and freekicks. This season, he’ll know the league, he’ll be acclimated, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to bang hard. (more…)


ODEGAARD VS MADDISON

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Well, here we are again, mulling over players we’re not sure we have a chance with.

This morning, everyone is thrashing about in the water because the choice is apparently Odegaard vs Maddison.

Now, I still find the idea of James Maddison a bit nuts. £70m plus whatever a player of his calibre earns… feels a bit of a stretch. But what can’t be denied is he’d be an absolute powerhouse of a signing. We’re absolutely awful from dead-ball situations, he delivers massive amounts of chances from setpieces. He’s a brilliant binder on the pitch, he creates chances, progresses the ball well, and last season he started adding more goals to his game. He was the difference between Leicester being in the title-chasing pack, to finishing 5th again.

Now you’ll remember last week.

‘Oooohhhh, bit pricey, right?’

Skip forward to this morning. Martin Odegaard, our primary target at the start of the summer, is apparently going to be fishing for a move back to the carpet for about half the price.

‘He’s shit, no end product’

Now, a few things we need to be a little wary of here… the player loves Real Madrid. There was a moment a few years ago when Cesc Fabregas had the chance to come back to London because Wenger was sniffing around him. Now, I don’t know if I have this perfectly narrated… but United were circling and Wenger didn’t want him to go there. He waited, but in the end, Cesc used our interest to get assurances at Barca, he stayed another year, then moved to Chelsea after we’d secured Mesut Ozil.

Time is running out in the window, we cannot be allowing Martin to rattle the commitment cage, then find ourselves up shit creek without a second creator again.

On the Norwegians talent profile, please, get away from me with ‘he’s no good’ rubbish. That is such a drossy statement.

Things to remind yourself of:

He’s 22 years old. An absolute baby in terms of the position he’s playing. There is still a lot of space for him to grow as a player and a leader. Where was Jack Grealish at that age? In the Championship scoring 5 goals and landing 5 assists with Aston Villa with big questions over whether he had the right mentality to succeed. Where was James Maddison? With Norwich in the Championship about the bang. Where was Serge Gnabry? Bumming around in Premier League 2 about to get moved out of Arsenal to Germany as a massive flop that wasn’t right in the head.

Players get better. Odegaard is a very good player. He’d played about 14 minutes of football in 6 months before he joined the Premier League. It takes time to adapt to a new culture, to a new fitness regime, and a new style of coaching. He still delivered a good showing. 90th percentile for progressive carries, 86th percentile for progressive passes, 96th percentile for passes attempted, and 98th for passes completed… in a totally broken squad.

Give him a system that doesn’t require him to drop so deep to force things to happen with players like Ben White and Lokonga declogging our slow play and aversion to playing through the middle and you have someone that can really find a next level.

It’s also worth referencing his season with Sociedad where he had a better run into a team that wasn’t on its knees like Arsenal were at Christmas.

Odegaard created 62 chances that season when he was 20 years old. Last season, the biggest chance creator in La Liga was Messi with 77. He is so far from average it is painful. If we can’t land Maddison, then we wouldn’t go far wrong with Odegaard. If you want to land a glimpse of what he could offer us next season, rewatch the Brighton game.

Honestly, I cannot fathom some of the chatter that goes on… Maddison is too expensive, let’s unlock European talent. Odegaard? Nah, not enough end product. Pick a lane. You want now talent, it’ll cost £70m, you want to take a chance on talent, it’ll look like Odegaard. Neither player would be a bad option.

Young players get better, especially those adapting from foreign countries. People complaining about our lack of goals seem to forget that up until matchday 14, we scored under a goal a game (0.85 per game), after we added 2 creators (ESR/Odegaard), we were only outscored by United and City (1.79 per game). \

Imagine what both of them could do in a more balanced team with a captain that has his head in the game?

Right, that’s me done, see you in the comments.


ROUGH DIAMONDS

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WELCOME TO MONDAY.

Quick breeze through today as there’s not much news to take on.

Alex Lacazette is being linked with a move to Atletico Madrid for the 387th time in his career. If you remember correctly, he was heading there before they landed a ban way back when… or something like that. The fee is rumoured to be about £12m, which I find exceptionally high considering he earns £180k a week, but look, I’d take anything at this moment in time.

I think we’d be losing a leader in the squad. Even when he’s playing badly, he stands up, and he never hides. I also think he has some very specific skills we might miss, like his ability to drop deep and roll as a playmaker. Still, if this summer is about reengineering for the future, swapping him out for Tammy Abraham would make a lot of sense. You can’t plan for a future if a player is out the door next season… you also have the post-February drag where there players hunting out a new move start preserving their bodies.

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7 REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ARSENAL

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Time is moving very slowly on the transfer front, so let’s have a little chat about what I liked about the game from yesterday PLUS some broader thoughts about where I think things are heading.

Auba is smiling again

There are certain people in this world with the power to lift or sink a room just by their body language. That is our captain. Auba spent a chunk of last season looking very sad for a whole host of reasons. The hope amongst Arsenal fans is that the main man from Gabon was hit differently by the mental strains of the pandemic.

He is a world-class finisher that underperformed last season. My hope is that overhead flick is the start of better from him. Once he realises he has a supporting cast around him that can get the ball to his feet where he likes it, I think we could see a different player this season.

Sambi Lokonga could be a steal (more…)


ARSENAL WIN

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Finally,  the club kicked into gear and won a preseason game.

We beat MillWAWLL (it’s how you say it in saarf Laaandon) 4-1.

Goals form Chambers, Lacazette, Pepe and Balogun sealed the deal.

Did we concede from a setpiece? Not sure. High chance? Yes, but we have to wait until they stick it on the .com before we can confirm the specifics.

Does this win mean we’re winning the title? Absolutely. Put a bet on it right now, trophies are coming home baby.

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