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Are we mature enough to have an adult conversation about Ben White?


The papers on the morning of the 23rd of September made for typically dramatic reading with regards to Arsenal’s summer recruit Ben White. This time, it was William Gallas who waded into the debate to provide the latest damning verdict on the centre-back, with the Frenchman insisting that Arsenal were ripped off after paying £50 million for his services.

Indeed, the man that inexplicably wore the number ten shirt at Arsenal didn’t pull any punches by saying that White was yet to prove himself and used Manchester United’s signing of Raphael Varane as an example.

Making his case, Gallas said the following: “It’s difficult for me to understand why Arsenal spent £50million on one player who is yet to prove himself at the top level and at the same time Manchester United can spend around £40m on Varane who won the World Cup and has four Champions League titles. You have to explain to me how it’s possible. Perhaps it’s partly because Ben White is English.”

It’s hard to know where to start with Gallas’ comments and, perhaps, it is more conclusive proof that ex-players don’t necessarily make the most enlightened pundits. The Frenchman, you see, is leaving out huge chunks of information that would paint a very different picture were they included. For one, Varane was in the last year of his contract at Real Madrid and could have begun negotiating a move away from the Bernabeu in January 2022 which would have seen him leave for free in the summer. If you want to talk about overpaying then, perhaps, William, you should put your energy into explaining why a club would part with £42 million when they could, in effect, pay nothing in as little as six months.

On the other hand, it was only a season before when Ben White had signed a long-term contract extension with Brighton that would keep him at the Amex until 2024. In essence, the longer a player has left on their contract, the more a club will have to part with in order to get a deal over the line. Furthermore, White is five years younger than Varane, which speaks for itself. Now, one may even be tempted to conclude, having gone over all the evidence on the table, that Arsenal may have underpaid for the 23-year-old’s services.

It’s worth saying that the ins and outs of a footballer’s contract is all very basic stuff and the large majority of Arsenal fans don’t need this explained to them. With this being the case, it does just feel like level-headed fans are having to put out more and more fires when it comes to Ben White, given how easily lazy narratives like Gallas’ spread.

That’s not to say it’s been a faultless start for White at the Emirates but, in recent weeks, the young defender has been making positive strides in the right direction and the Gunners, after back-to-back wins, are as little as 2/1 for a top-six finish now in the latest Premier League betting.

Those odds do sort of lend themselves to a narrative that suggests Arsenal are improving now that their summer recruits have had more time to gel. But then that wouldn’t be a storyline that would sell as much, given that it is far too sensible for anyone to take any genuine interest in it. This is a fanbase that has rightly or wrongly been renowned for its faux outrage, which does tend to starve any discussion of logic and reason.

In Ben White’s case, it’s clear to see that the Gunners have bought an extremely talented footballer whose style with the ball at his feet is very easy on the eye. In a few years from now, these obituaries that have been prematurely written about White will come back to haunt those who refuse to have an adult conversation about his time at the club so far.


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