If, as we all hope, Premier League football is about to return to normal, then it is a normality that might not suit Mikel Arteta.
The Arsenal manager was probably the boss who benefitted the most from there being no fans inside the Emirates Stadium for the vast majority of last season, when he was spared the ire that would have followed the home defeats to the likes of Aston Villa, Wolves, Burnley and Everton among others, as well as the Europa League exit to Villarreal.
Of course Arteta would never say as much, as there are many, many reasons why the Gunners and all other clubs missed their fans last season, as well as ways that we could see that the game was warped when it was played in eerie soulless stadiums.
But Arteta will be well aware that if Arsenal don’t look as though they are going to improve on last season’s disappointments, then he will hear about it pretty quickly.
Arsenal eventually finished eighth in 2020/21, but that may as well have been 12th, or 15th. It may as well have never happened.
The sense that they were a club drifting and one not to be taken seriously was a palpable one, and so what do clubs do when they want to be taken seriously?
They splash the cash.
The news that the Gunners are edging closer to a deal for Brighton’s Ben White isn’t perhaps the most surprising or indeed interesting of this transfer window thus far, but when you throw in the fact that he looks set to cost around £50million then suddenly you shift in your seat.
If it does indeed go through at that figure than White would become Arsenal’s third most expensive player of all time behind Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, two players who add attacking flair to Arteta’s team when functioning correctly.
He’d also be thrust up there into a group with Harry Maguire, Virgil van Dijk and the Manchester City pair of John Stones and Aymeric Laporte as the Premier League’s costliest defenders.
White is good enough to keep that company but it is a status which carries with it a degree of jeopardy, although this time around it is perhaps more so for the manager than the player who’ll be peeling off his expensive price tag.
Because Arteta will really, really need White to work out as an Arsenal player.
Should his move be completed at £50million then that would bring Arsenal’s spending on senior centre-backs up to around £115million in the past two years, taking in moves for the likes of Pablo Mari, Gabriel, William Saliba and the now departed David Luiz.
Arteta wasn’t around for all of those signings of course, and there is still time for some of them to come good, but he will really need White to be the one that he can depend upon to be the constant in what seems to be an ever-changing cast of characters at the back for the Gunners.
At just 23 White, who was called into the England squad to replace the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold for the Euros, clearly has a lot of fans in the game, from Gareth Southgate to Sergio Ramos, who according to Leeds director of football Victor Orta was impressed with the defender when he was on loan at Newport.
Leeds fans were so desperate to get him to join the club last summer following his successful loan deal that they started a social media movement hoping to ‘free’ the defender, only to see their club’s efforts to sign him frustrated.
In the event, Brighton’s steadfastness in holding onto White for another year looks set to have earned them a huge sum from Arsenal for centre-back, and they will certainly be happy to bank the cash.
The player will be delighted with the move too, and so that just leaves Arteta.
And while he too will be a happy man if the move is completed, you can bet he’ll be more than a little nervous as well.
This might just be the deal he is judged upon by those returning supporters.