It’s safe to say that Arsenal’s £50 million summer signing Ben White is having a stellar first season in north London, under the stewardship of Mikel Arteta.
The former Brighton and Hove Albion centre half came under severe criticism following his disappointing debut against Brentford, with pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville arguing that physical opposition strikers could target him.
But certainly, mitigating circumstances were clearly apparent as White was surrounded by individuals who offered minimal support in Pablo Mari and Callum Chambers on the day.
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What’s clearly apparent is that from the moment Arteta has had the opportunity to maintain team selection continuity and have the spine of the team intact, White has delivered on a regular basis.
Whether it’s a physical forward who likes to drop deep and hold the ball up or a more dynamic striker who makes threatening runs in behind, the former Leeds defender has shown countless examples of being able to deal with anything that comes his way.
The performances delivered left Gareth Southgate with no choice but to select White in his latest 24-man squad, where he should add to his two caps over the next few days as England face Switzerland and Ivory Coast in friendlies at Wembley.
But despite the fact that the defender has endured great spells for Leeds, Brighton and now Arsenal, life wasn’t easy for White during his early days, especially in 2014 when he was rejected by Southampton aged just 16.
“I got told I wasn’t going to get anything; Mum took me and our chat was a little quiet on the way home. I didn’t know if I wanted to carry on, it was obviously tough not being wanted,” he said.
“You don’t know if there is going to be anyone else who wants you; if they don’t want you, other teams at that level won’t. So it was kind of a feeling of: ‘Where do I go from here?”
Surprisingly though, White wasn’t shocked by the disappointing news he received as a teenager. “No, I wasn’t good enough when I was younger. I was a late developer, probably as tall as I am now but really skinny, gangly, couldn’t really run. And I didn’t play at all when I was there.
“There were always people playing in front of me. I’d get 10 minutes here and there, and that’s not enough to be able to show what you’ve got.”
It didn’t really get any easier for the 24-year-old, with unsuccessful trials at Bristol Rovers and Leicester City. Positive news began to come White’s way, however, as time went by following a successful trial at Brighton, operating at centre-back and the rest is history, with the Dorset-born star now regarded as one of the best central defenders in the country.