Opinion: White's lack of interest in football could benefit his career

Being a football player isn’t like any other job. Football, in general, isn’t like any other vocation. It is, after all, a public pursuit that forms a central part of the lives of millions across the country, and the world. There aren’t many chants about city planners or junior marketing executives.

As a consequence, there is an expectation that those involved in the game must hold the same passion for it as the fans in the stands. This is why Ben White’s recent comments were so notable. Despite being an elite level footballer for Arsenal and England, the 24-year-old has admitted to not really being that interested in football as a fan.

“Football is so intense,” White told Sky Sports. “You come in every day giving 100%. All I want to do is go home and not think about it, then come in in the morning fresh and ready to give 100% again. I watch myself for analytical reasons. I watch England, maybe, but I’m always busy doing something. I wouldn’t just sit down and watch a game.”

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Asked about what it means to him to wear Patrick Viera’s former shirt number for the Gunners, White continued to go against the grain by confessing to not knowing much about the French midfielder. “I didn’t ever watch football when I was younger,” he said. “I still don’t now. I just loved the game, I was always playing it, never watching. So I don’t know too much about the older generations, but I know Vieira was a very good player. But I don’t know the details.”

Unsurprisingly, White’s remarks prompted a backlash on social media. Some fans argued that the former Brighton defender’s apparent disinterest in the game will make it harder for him to improve his own game, the logic being that White isn’t exposing himself to new ideas in different countries and different leagues.

To the contrary, though, White’s detachment from the sport could help him fulfil his potential as a player. The Arsenal centre back is still analysing his own game and that of opponents, as modern professionals are expected to, so how much is he really losing out on by not spending his spare time watching even more football?

It has never been more important for footballers to have time to rest and recuperate, not just physically, but mentally too. The ever-present spectre of social media has made it almost impossible for players to switch off from the game. If White has found a way to do this, he should be applauded for it, not criticised.

White isn’t the first top level player to have voiced such views on the sport. Former Tottenham Hotspur defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto took it one step further by essentially admitting to being a mercenary. “Yes, it’s a good, good job and I don’t say that I hate football but it’s not my passion,” he explained in an interview.

Ben White in training for Arsenal

Image credit: Getty Images

Is such honesty really so bad? Would supporters prefer the sort of performative disingenuity that saw Robbie Keane claim he’d been a childhood fan of pretty much every club he represented over his career? If anything, White treated Arsenal fans with respect by not spinning a line about Vieira.

Of course, the truest judgement of White will be made on the back of his performances on the pitch. If the 24-year-old is a success at Arsenal, his ability to compartmentalise his professional life will appear a real skill. If, however, the £50m man flops in North London, his comments will have given critics easy ammunition to use against him.

Fans may struggle to accept that players who find themselves at the heart of their passion don’t feel the same way they do about football, but fans don’t always make the best players. Those on the pitch require a different mindset to those in the stands and White’s comments prove this.

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'I am in a different position' – Vieira cautious as he discusses Ek's attempted Arsenal takeover

Patrick Vieira appeared to distance himself from Daniel Ek’s attempted takeover of Arsenal as he admitted he could not speak freely on the subject while manager of Crystal Palace.

Like former Arsenal team-mates Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry, Vieira was supportive of the Swedish billionaire’s takeover bid in the wake of the Gunners’ failed attempt to join the European Super League.

The offer was rejected by Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke but Henry has recently suggested that Spotify co-founder Ek remains committed to buying the club.

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Vieira faces the club he used to captain for the first time since becoming Crystal Palace boss on Monday night and said he was unable to talk about the Gunners in the same way that he had done prior to arriving at Selhurst Park.

“I was just expressing myself as Patrick, ex-Arsenal football player,” Vieira said when asked about his support for Ek’s takeover plans.

“That comment was based on how the direction (of the club) was going.

“I was talking to somebody who had a different view and a different way of taking (forward) Arsenal Football Club.

‘We will not find another Vieira’ – Arteta ahead of Crystal Palace game

“This was the reason why with Dennis and Thierry were involved in the kind of situation that Arsenal was in.

“I am in a different position than a couple of months ago. So I’m not going to express myself in the same way than when I was just an ex-Arsenal football player.”

Last month, Henry admitted that there was currently no dialogue between Kroenke and Ek but he insisted the deal was not dead.

“It hasn’t happened yet, but we and he is here to stay. So let’s see what’s going to happen,” Henry said.

The striker’s former Arsenal and France team-mate, however, believes the Kroenkes have made it obvious they have no intention of selling.

“​When you were looking at the situation at the time it was clear that the Kroenke family was making the statement that the club is not for sale,” Vieira said.

“Then I think everything was over. You can’t buy a football club if it is not for sale.”

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‘He was remarkable’ – Arteta ahead of Vieira’s return to Arsenal

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has described Patrick Vieira as a “remarkable” legend of the club, ahead of his return with Crystal Palace on Monday night.

The former France midfielder will face his old side for the first time as a manager for the Premier League fixture, but at one stage it looked like he was Arteta’s rival for the Emirates hot seat, as he was heavily linked with the position when Unai Emery was sacked almost two years ago.

The pair are ex-Arsenal captains, and Arteta was asked in his pre-match news conference whether the club have missed a player like Vieira since he left for Juventus in 2005.

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“He was very dominant,” Arteta said of his Palace counterpart.

He was physically really gifted, technically too, he had the right temper, he was brave and he could score goals. He could do a bit of everything and he was remarkable.

“Patrick was Patrick. There’s not going to be another one like him.

“He is an Arsenal legend and I hope he gets the reception he deserves for what he did for the club, not only as a player but also what he transmitted as a person.

“He was a captain of the club in the most successful era in the last many years and it is great to have him back.”

Another former Arsenal captain, Granit Xhaka, this week posted a picture of himself in a leg brace but using a leg press, having injured his knee in the north London derby win over Tottenham last month.

The original prognosis was that the Switzerland midfielder would be out for around three months, but Arteta says if he can come back quicker, Xhaka will be doing everything possible to make sure he does.

“What I am sure is if you tell him three (months), he will be thinking two. He will be trying to cut edges and doing extra work to try to minimise that time, that’s for sure.

“We have to do it in the right way because it is a significant injury and we want to have him back properly when he can.”

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Bellerin prefers Betis stay over returning to Arsenal

Hector Bellerin has suggested that he would prefer to stay at Real Betis rather than return to Arsenal after his loan spell expires at the end of the season.

Bellerin, 26, left the Gunners on the final day of the transfer window to return to La Liga.

He will still have one year left on his deal with Arsenal next summer but hinted that he would prefer to stay at Betis, having struggled for first-team minutes under Mikel Arteta.

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Asked where he thinks he will be next June, the right-back told ElDesmarque: “I don’t know, but I’ve always said if I didn’t want to be here next season, I wouldn’t have come from the beginning.

“There are many things to be decided but what I want to do is enjoy this season that I am here. And what has to happen will happen.”

Bellerin joined Arsenal in 2011 and played 25 times in the Premier League last season.

It was reported that he took a sizeable pay cut to move to Betis, who his father said he always wanted him to join.

“It is clear that money is something important, because it is our job. But I think in football that love of sport, of the club, is being lost,” he explained.

“And for me, after having understood and had that feeling since childhood, there are things that you put first. This past year and a half has made us rethink many things. For me and for everyone it was an effort to carry out the operation, not only from the point of view of money. Also how much it cost us to get here. In the end, those efforts pay off and I had other priorities when making my decision.”

Arteta said last month that he was sad to see Bellerin leave after a decade with the club.

“To find someone like Hector is not easy,” he said. “He has been raised here with us and is loved by everyone at the football club.

“I had to say goodbye with sadness but at the same time, I had to understand his position. He needed a new challenge, he has needed a new challenge for a while now. After discussions for a long time, we decided to let him go because it was the right thing for him as well. He always told me about playing one day at Betis, we had talked about it.”

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Ronaldo and Arteta scoop player and manager of the month awards

The Premier League have confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo and Mikel Arteta have been named player of the month and manager of the month respectively.

Despite Manchester United hitting a patch of poor form, voters still cast Ronaldo as the league’s stand-out player for September. The Portuguese scored twice on his Old Trafford return, as Manchester United put four past Newcastle.

He also snatched a goal at the London Stadium in the Red Devils win at West Ham.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United scores their side’s first goal past Lukasz Fabianski of West Ham United during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at London Stadium on September 19,

Image credit: Eurosport

Mikel Arteta was awarded manager of the month. Arsenal’s stand-out victory came in the north London derby as the Gunners’ blistering first half display dazzled neighbours Spurs, netting three times in the opening 34 minutes.

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 26: Emile Smith Rowe of Arsenal celebrates with Granit Xhaka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard after scoring their side’s first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates

Image credit: Eurosport

After a shocking start to the league campaign with defeat at Brentford on the opening day of the season, a loss to Chelsea at home and a 5-0 thumping at Manchester City, the Gunners’ redemption began at home against Norwich.

Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a scrappy goal on the hour mark in a 1-0 win over the Canaries at the Emirates Stadium, an unconvincing but important first three points of the season.

Martin Odegaard whipped in a free-kick for the only goal of the game at Turf Moor the following week, in another gritty 1-0 win.

Next was a 3-1 triumph in the north London derby to secure a third consecutive win, as the Gunners began to climb the table.

Manchester United face struggling Leicester City on their return to the Premier League next weekend. A close eye will be kept on Ronaldo after he was dropped to the bench for last week’s defeat at home to Everton.

Arsenal host Crystal Palace after the international break, as Mikel Arteta’s side look to extend their unbeaten run to five games.

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'A great influence to have around' – Wilshere back training with Arsenal

Jack Wilshere is back training with Arsenal and Gunners boss Mikel Arteta says he can help the club’s younger players.

Wilshere, who has been plagued with injuries in recent years, is currently without a team after leaving Championship club Bournemouth at the end of last season.

He has joined up with his first club, where he was considered one of Arsenal’s brightest prospects when he broke into the first team aged 16, to maintain his fitness and so that he can work towards his coaching badges.

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Arteta insists the former England international will not be playing for Arsenal’s first team anytime soon, but believes he can be a very useful presence at the club’s training ground.

“What you should believe is that we want to help Jack prepare for his next stage, physically, mentally,” Arteta told Arsenal’s official website.

“He wants to do his coaching badges again and we are prepared to fulfil all the needs that he wants. That is basically the idea and it is no further than that.

“I am very happy to have him back. We had a conversation with Jack and understand the needs that he has, the period that he is going through and I think everyone at the club agreed it was the right moment to help him.

“We sat down with him and we listened to what he wanted to do and what stage he is and we are prepared to do anything we can to help him.

“He is going to be training sometimes with us, he is going to be around the place, he is going to be continuing his coaching badges that he is very interested in, try to get him fit, try to get his experiences across to our players, our young players, our academy and I think it is great influence to have around.”

Jack Wilshere

Image credit: Getty Images

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Champions League holders Barcelona remain the best – The Warm-Up

WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES

Barcelona cruise past Arsenal to cement status as world’s best

Barcelona were at their effervescent best as they put four past Arsenal in their Champions League opener at the Johan Cruyff stadium on Tuesday.

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The Catalan club cemented their 2020-21 treble with a 4-0 win against Chelsea in last season’s showpiece final and reaffirmed their status as favourites for this year’s tournament with a 4-1 win against WSL pacesetters Arsenal.

The Gunners had opened their season with four wins from four in the league, scoring 16 goals and conceding just two – that run included wins against Chelsea and Manchester City. However, the London club were on the back foot from the off against Barcelona, who themselves were five from five in the Primera División.

Matchday 1 of the reformatted Champions League pitted – on paper at least – two of Europe’s best sides against one another, but the Spanish outfit were in the ascendancy throughout and it could – and should – have been more. Barcelona captain and scorer of her side’s second, Alexia Putellas, missed a stoppage time penalty to put added gloss on an already polished performance that also saw former Arsenal player Asisat Oshoala, Mariona Caldentey and Lieke Martens on the scoresheet.

The result was a far cry from Barcelona’s first European outing – a 7-0 aggregate humbling by, you guessed it, Arsenal – back in 2012, and impressively reasserted their credentials as the best side in Europe and favourites to add a second Champions League crown to an ever-expanding trophy cabinet.

The loss brought an end to the Gunners’ 20-match unbeaten run in all competitions dating back to February. They will face Hoffenheim on October 14 while Barcelona will take on Koge of Denmark.

Depay comes out swinging for Barcelona

On a completely separate note, the other Barcelona are a shambles. They sit ninth in Liga, some five points off the pace. They are rock bottom of a Champions League Group E that also contains Bayern Munich, Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv.

It is, The Warm-Up posits, incumbent on the manager, Ronald Koeman, to re-set the narrative enveloping the club and to push back against it. Yet, every time he opens his mouth the club barrels further into despair and discontent.

With his manager either unwilling or unable to re-set the agenda, Netherlands striker Memphis Depay appears to have taken on said mantel as cajoler-in-chief and positively bristled when asked whether he regretted moving to the Camp Nou.

“How could you ask that?” Depay said to ESPN Netherlands.

It’s Barcelona. I don’t think you understand how big this club is and what it means for a player if you move to a club like this. I would never regret it.

“Despite results, I’m really happy at the club,” he continued.

“It’s been a difficult time [for the team]. I don’t want to talk about that much, but people are acting like the season is already over. There are so many games to play. Everything is still open. But as a player you feel responsible and you take responsibility. You care. Every player takes responsibility at Barca. That’s normal for a club like Barcelona.”

That right there is fighting talk. The sort of rearguard talk Koeman should be invoking every time he talks to the media. Instead it is very much woe is me.

Pjanic sticks the boot in on Koeman

Given his acrimonious exit from the club, it is well known that Miralem Pjanic has little time for Koeman.

And so, when the opportunity arose to stick the boot into Koeman – and Barcelona’s horrendous start to the season represents presentation of an opportunity to do so – Pjanic duly stuck it in.

“[Barcelona] are going through difficult times,” Pjanic told beIN SPORTS in a fairly restrained start.

“The results are not going as the fans want, which puts pressure on the players,” he continued in, again, a fair assessment of the club’s travails.

Maybe a good leader is needed to get the team back on its feet. Barcelona will return to the past, but it will take some time.

Ouch.

“Barca are always one of the four or five biggest clubs in the world and they will go back to the old days.”

Pjanic and Koeman won’t be on each others’ Christmas card list

Image credit: Getty Images

Luis Enrique is definitely not reading this

Luis Enrique does not like the press. And has no qualms about telling the press this very fact. And ahead of his side’s Nations League semi-final against Italy, the Spain manager once again let the press – via Marca – know that he has no time for them. Here he is:

I don’t read the press because I think I know more about football than most and because I have more information than you do. There isn’t an opinion that I can read that might interest me.

There you have it. He is not reading this.

HAT-TIP

A good get here from the ever-informative Off The Ball, who spoke with Callum Robinson regarding vaccinations, or lack thereof.

I just haven’t [had the vaccination]. I just haven’t done it. I think – as I said to your man here – it’s your personal choice, and erm… my choice at this moment in time I haven’t been vaccinated.I wouldn’t force it on people to do it, or not. It’s your choice, and your body and…

Robinson had has Covid-19 twice by the way.

RETRO CORNER

On the day in 2001, David Beckham continued his journey from pariah to national hero by scoring the goal that would send England to the 2002 World Cup.

COMING UP

It is only the Nations League semi-final opener between Italy and Spain. Everyone bar – presumably Luis Enrique – will read about that here tomorrow with Andi Thomas.

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WCL: Magisterial Barcelona crush Arsenal in opener

As you were. The UEFA Women’s Champions League may have a new look but Barcelona began the defence of their crown with a familiar display of dominance, dismissing Arsenal with a performance of magisterial magnificence.

Just as in last season’s final in May, Barcelona produced a supreme showing against out-matched England opposition, Jonas Eidevall’s side comprehensively beaten 4-1 at the Johan Cruyff Stadium.

The competition has been revamped this year with the introduction of a proper group stage to the women’s top-tier continental competition for the first time.

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There had been change at the Catalan club, too. Jonatan Geraldez succeeded Lluis Cortes this summer at Barcelona having assisted his predecessor as the club won the treble in 2020-21, but any thoughts that they may affect the continental candidacy of the Spanish giants were swiftly put aside.

A dominant half-hour saw chances come regularly as the hosts harried and hustled Arsenal with a high press, proving able to unpick the deep-set visiting defence with typically delightful attacking interplay.

Where an open Chelsea had opened the door and put down a welcome mat in a decisive first half of the final in May, Arsenal initially appeared prepared to be more resolute, yet struggled to cope with Barcelona’s ball movement and pressing.

Indeed the only surprise was that it took those 30 minutes for an opener to come.

A powerful drive from Asisat Oshoala was parried by Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger lunging to her right, and Mariona Caldentey followed in well to snaffle the leftovers and put her side one ahead.

Oshoala did appear to have been an offside position in the build-up, but with no VAR in use there was no recourse to check.

The Nigerian played a major role in the second, too, this time timing her dart wonderfully from an inside right position to get to the byline.

Drawing Zinsberger from her line, Oshoala’s cut-back left captain Alexia Putellas with a simple finish between the retreating Arsenal bodies to double her side’s advantage.

In all the Spanish side produced 18 shots in a half of authoritative magnificence, with Arsenal almost entirely unable to involve their potent frontline.

The third arrived soon after the players returned from half-time, Oshoala again pouncing on an ill-sprung offside trap from the visitors and coolly slotting home against her former club.

That goal perhaps caused Barcelona to ease off, and Arsenal belatedly grew into the game in the second 45 minutes, with Nikita Parris impressive from the bench.

Eidevall also showed his nous with a number of tactical tweaks to trouble a Barcelona side in cruise control, and a consolation was found.

20 minutes from time a deliciously whipped free-kick from Tobin Heath arced into the path of Frida Maanum, who unconventionally directed the ball in with her hip.

It was to be but a blip, though, as Arsenal again were caught with their line high.

Substitute Lieke Martens latched on to the forwards loft and lifted a nice finish over Zinsberger.

Zinsberger salvaged a degree of pride when, having plucked the ball from the deeper reaches of her net on four occasions, she saved Putellas’ spot-kick in stoppage time after

The result had long been beyond doubt, though, as Barcelona produced a resounding return and an opening pronouncement of ominous intent.

– – –

In Group C’s other fixture, Hoffenheim got their campaign off to an excellent start against HB Køge of Denmark.

Belgium’s Tine de Caigny scored twice in the second half to help the German side to a resounding 5-0 home victory.

– – –

Seven-time champions Lyon welcomed back Norwegian superstar Ada Hegerberg during their 3-0 win over BK Hacken FF.

Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg (L) enters the pitch during the UEFA Women’s Champions League Group D playoff football match between BK Haecken and Olympique Lyonnais at Bravida Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden, on October 5, 2021.

Image credit: Getty Images

Hegerberg, the inaugural winner of the Women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, made her playing return after nearly two years out after suffering an ACL injury.

Two goals soon after the half-time interval ensured the game was out of sight before Hegerberg’s introduction 12 minutes from time, with the Norwegian not required to add to her record goals tally in the Champions League.

– – –

Portuguese champions Benfica held German champions Bayern Munich at home in Group D’s second fixture on the opening night of UWCL action.

The visitors struck the bar through Lea Schuller late on but could not find an opening despite dominating possession and having the clearer chances in Lisbon.

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Arteta expects improvement from Arsenal after Brighton draw

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was disappointed with a draw at Brighton on Saturday night in the Premier League.

Brighton had some excellent chances to score and while Arsenal also might have grabbed a winner, the home side dominated possession.

With the international break ahead of them, Arteta can reflect upon a stark improvement in Arsenal’s fortunes with four wins in their last five games, no defeats, and one goal conceded.

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However, the Spaniard suggested there was still much to improve in time for the club’s next game, against Crystal Palace in a fortnight.

“We have to improve individually and collectively and prepare well because a roller-coaster is coming with the amount of games,” he said after the draw at Brighton.

“I’m never happy with a point, but I don’t think we deserved anything more than that.

We got a point because we defended really well in the last 15 or 20 metres of the pitch, and for the rest I think it was a game that we have to improve and do better in many other areas.

“We felt uncomfortable to break the press and they had sequences of control in the game. And it was a difficult game. But in the end we showed some resilience and we have to be happy with the block of games we have played and the results that we got, but I think we have to improve.”

Youngster Buyako Saka had to leave the pitch with an injury late in the game, but Arteta was not overly concerned.

“He got knocked, so they will check him. I don’t know how it is yet but he was able to walk so I don’t think it’s that bad,” he exclaimed.

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Little hits 150th Arsenal goal as Gunners extend perfect start in WSL

Kim Little’s 150th goal for Arsenal helped the Gunners extend their perfect start to the Women’s Super League to four games with a win at Aston Villa.

After a goalless first half, Little netted from the edge of the box to open the scoring.

Villa carried a threat but were unable to make a breakthrough and the points were secured late on through Mana Iwabuchi.

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It was a deft finish from Iwabuchi, but much of the credit goes to USWNT star Tobin Heath who drove into the box on the left-hand side and picked out her team-mate in perfect fashion.

Arsenal made it three when Katie McCabe chipped Hannah Hampton from 30 yards after the Aston Villa goalkeeper’s clearance went straight to the Gunners forward.

Little got her second of the game in stoppage time, as a deflected strike looped the ball over Hampton.

Chelsea made it three wins on the spin in the WSL with a dominant display against Brighton.

The Seagulls were surprise league leaders after two games, but back-to-back defeats brought them down to earth with a thud.

Guro Reiten opened the scoring for the Blues on nine minutes with a powerful, low drive.

A brave header from Sam Kerr doubled the advantage before the interval, although Brighton briefly threatened a rally when cutting the lead through Danielle Carter on 48 minutes.

Bethany England’s neat finish with her left foot into the top corner eased Chelsea nerves, with the goal completing a hat-trick of assists for Fran Kirby.

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