And the hits just keep on coming for Arsenal. In his pitchside comments after the Chelsea match, Mikel Arteta said that he “didn’t think” Ben White would be available to face Manchester City on August 28th. The center back tested positive for COVID-19 late last week, the signs would seem to point to Thursday overnight / Friday morning, and has been in isolation since. Obviously, he didn’t play against Chelsea and was replaced in the starting lineup by Rob Holding.
White is the latest Arsenal player to test positive, adding his name to a list that includes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Willian, and Alex Runarsson, who all tested positive ahead of the season-opener against Brentford. Aubameyang has since tested negative and came off the bench against Chelsea. Lacazette may have been in the stands on Sunday — I saw a picture on Twitter of what the reporter said was his car with him inside it pulling up to the Emirates. If that’s accurate, he’s out of isolation. There hasn’t been any update on Willian or Runarsson beyond the club injury report saying that they are both recovering.
It’s a bummer that White looks likely to miss matches against Chelsea and Manchester City. He was one of Mikel Arteta’s top targets this summer, and his dribbling skill and passing range was meant to replace David Luiz’s important, ball-progressing contributions to the Arsenal attack. White also needs training, matches, and experience, generally, with his teammates to settle in, and right now, he’s not getting that.
All the injuries and COVID absences have gotten the Gunners’ season off to a false-start. The results still matter, and Arsenal need to pick up points (or at least score some goals), but it feels as if the campaign isn’t really and truly underway. Missing a bunch of first team players informs and explains two losses and no goals to open the season, but does it excuse it? I think so. But you’ve got to make your own decision on that one.
Hopefully Ben White (and all the other ill and injured players) make a quick and full recovery. An international break to start September should help with that. And maybe, somehow, Arsenal won’t be on zero points when they kickoff against Norwich City on September 11th. But I wouldn’t bet on that.