Mikel Arteta welcomes back Ben White and Thomas Partey as the Arsenal duo return to action against AC Milan… with the England defender said to be in ‘good shape’ after his reported World Cup bust-up with Steve Holland
Ben White and Thomas Partey went straight back into first team action for Arsenal in Dubai on Tuesday night.
White left England’s World Cup camp early for personal reasons while Partey endured the disappointment of a surprise group stage exit with Ghana.
But Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had no hesitation in including the pair after just two days of training back with his Premier League leaders.
Ben White returned to action for Arsenal after leaving England’s camp for ‘personal reasons’
Mikel Arteta had no questions about White’s character, despite rumours of a bust-up in Qatar
The Spanish coach said: ‘We are very pleased to have Ben back. Everybody has been giving him a lot of support and love. We know the reasons he had to leave the camp. We are delighted to have him back and he looked in really good shape.’
Asked about the speculation surrounding White’s England exit, Arteta commented: ‘We can’t control that. I know who Ben is, what he needs, what his character is and how happy we all are to have him at the club.
‘On Thomas, he played a lot in Qatar and he was disappointed the way he had to leave the World Cup but it happens to every nation that they are out.
‘It takes a few days to reset and to focus on the team. The good thing we have is that everybody has been showing that they are desperate to get back as quick as possible. It was really good to have those two back today playing some minutes.’
Thomas Partey was also thrown straight into action after being knocked out of the World Cup
Martin Odegaard (right) opened the scoring for Arteta’s Arsenal side with a stunning free-kick
Next to rejoin the Arsenal family will be Bukayo Saka and keeper Aaron Ramsdale. Defender William Saliba is still on duty with France.
Arteta added: ‘They will take a few more days. Granit Xhaka [Switzerland’s captain) is already here. He is already training and willing to participate on the weekend. We don’t have that many away now so it’s a positive thing.’
On the pitch, Arsenal did enough to follow their win over Lyon last week with another relatively comfortable victory as they beat the reigning Serie A champions 2-1 with goals from Martin Odegaard and Reiss Nelson.
Milan started well and Divock Origi, the former Liverpool forward, bent a right-foot shot against the Arsenal crossbar as the Italian side started on top.
Arsenal recovered and were good value for their 21st-minute lead when captain Odegaard scored with a perfectly executed dipping left foot free-kick from the edge of the area.
White returned to club training the day after England’s World Cup exit on Saturday night
The Norway international was then involved with Arsenal’s second, in the 43rd minute when the ball deflected off him into the Milan net after a Reiss Nelson shot.
Arteta made a plan withdrawal of his World Cup men White and Partey at half-time and sent on Cedric Soares and local hero Mohamed Elneny, much to the crowd’s delight.
Arteta made further changes, allowing Milan to get back into the game and the Italians pulled a goal back through former Chelsea defender Fikayo Timori.
The England international, who narrowly missed out on a World Cup place, headed in from a 78th minute free-kick.