Ben White has shown Chelsea the confidence running through the Arsenal camp heading into their clash on Saturday. The England right-back, who helped Mikel Arteta’s team shut down Erling Haaland and Manchester City before the international break, remains key to the set-up at the Emirates Stadium but could get a new type of test here.
As one of the strongest one-on-one defenders in the league White could see himself up against come up against one of the more unpredictable talents. After Mykhailo Mudryk’s stunning goal for Ukraine in midweek he will be eyeing a battle against the former Brighton centre-back at SW6 with both sides giving off confidence.
Sitting second in the league and looking to go top Arsenal have picked up where they left off last year. Chelsea, however, continue to struggle in mid-table. Mauricio Pochettino’s side are now on better form than three weeks ago and come into this game off the back off three wins in a row in all competitions.
This hasn’t been a fixture that has been kind to them in recent years though and the war of words between each camp has continued. “You can pick any of them,” laughed White when asked if he was ready to go up against Mudryk or Raheem Sterling on Saturday.
“What I joke about is that you can know who you’re playing against before the game, and then, at 60 minutes, when you’re absolutely knackered, someone else comes on who is just as good. That happens against every top team. You’ve got to deal with it.”
Mudryk, who was close to joining Arsenal in January before a late switch to west London, could be that man to watch on from the start and be ready to make an impact when asked later on. He scored his first goal for the Blues before the break and had found a run of games that helped him to show some of the spark that saw Chelsea and Arsenal compete for him, he was, however, dropped to the bench in favour of Sterling last time out against Burnley.
Having picked up a minor knock in the same half as his first goal against Fulham, Mudryk then had to settle for a back-up role and watched as his 28-year-old teammate settled in with three goal contributions in the 4-1 win. It leaves Sterling as the most likely player to start this game again but Mudryk is ready when the time comes.
“First goal it’s always special [star emoji],” he wrote on Instagram after scoring during the Euro 2024 qualifier against Malta. “Hungry for more [surfing emoji]. Thank you for your support [Ukraine flag and white heart emoji].” That came after his international compatriot Oleksandr Zinchenko had sent one of the specific messages of the season.
“I told him, ‘if you do or attempt to do that on Saturday, I’ll rip your balls off,’ ” the former Manchester City star said. He then added a bit more tenderly: “But the most important thing for us was to take three points. I am very happy for him and for the national team, Mykhailo’s goal was important because he calmed down the game a little.
“We have already had the experience of being 2-1 up and losing points in the last minutes, as happened against Kazakhstan. So this goal means a lot to us and gives us confidence, but now we all have to switch to clubs and on Saturday, I already have a very important game in London waiting for me, so Mykhailo, I’m telling you once again.”