After experiencing a vastly different start to the season compared to his maiden campaign with us, Ben White has revealed he feels the last 12 months have seen him grow - personally and professionally.
The defender has started every league game this term and has helped us top the Premier League after the first six matches, a far cry from this time last season where we lost our first three games and Ben bore the brunt of a lot of the criticism.
Having overcome that, he is well-placed to weigh up the differences between the two starts to the season, both individually and collectively.
Reflecting on how much he’s grown over the past year, Ben said: “A lot as a person; I think more as a person than a player. When you come to such a big club like this, there's a lot more to it than you'd think.
“As a player, I’ve become more confident and been showing the confidence put in me, and trying to perform to the level that the manager wants every week is something that I'm looking forward to.
“This season has been very different. There's a lot more togetherness, and the way we train is completely different. What we do off the pitch, the attitude and the spirit that we're all together is completely different.
“For me personally, it was a tough start when I first joined. I played in the Brentford game and didn't have a good game. I was getting battered by every person in the media and it's rubbish to hear that.
“I don't have social media or anything like that, so I don't actually see any of it but you get told about it and sent it. It's one of those things; everyone has their opinion. Some you listen to it, and some of you don't.”
An opinion the defender treasures is Mikel Arteta’s, who brought him to Emirates Stadium last summer from Brighton & Hove Albion, and Ben is grateful for the support he showed him during those difficult early days in his Gunners career.
“Him bringing me here showed the belief that he had me,” he said. “I'm not really someone that needs to be told when I've done something rubbish, or told when I've done well - I kind of know. But it was it's nice for the manager and the staff to always be around me last season when things weren't so good.
“It’s exciting [working under Arteta]. I think you come into training not knowing what's going to happen, which is nice. It breaks up your week. Coming in each day, you don't know if you're going to have a meeting or not, or what type of thing he is going to do in the meeting. Then when you get outside, you have no idea what's coming.”
Ben laughs when he was asked if he sought the opinion of his parents: “My dad definitely doesn't watch [football]. He always supported me, and took me everywhere but never watched, and my mum is exactly the same.
“They've always been there to support – they’re not those mum or dads that would tell me what I've been doing wrong or anything like that, they’ve no clue! I remember coming off the training pitch and asking my mum how I’d done - she would always say I was good!”
Despite only being 24 years old, Ben has achieved the feat of playing in all four divisions of the Football League, as well as gaining international honours. He feels that looking back at the experiences he has gathered from all levels of the game allows him to better assess his growth on and off the pitch over the past year.
“I think some of the reasons why I'm here is from experiences and the different styles of play that I've had to adapt to during my career,” he added. “I think it's helped me massively playing in completely different situations, and I think that certainly helped me with what I’m doing now.
“Even the League Two teams I've played for and in League One, I've taken stuff from there. They’re a completely different environment and you’re put in situations that aren't a Premier League standard. Each coach has different things to offer.”
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