Ben White joining Arsenal might not be the big-name transfer some supporters will have hoped for, but we explain why his is a transfer that can revolutise the Gunners and prove their most important new arrival in years.
The Gunners have moved quickly in the early part of the summer window to make the defender a top target. Despite having an initial £40million bid rejected by the Seagulls, Arsenal have stepped up the chase. Indeed, reports on Friday claimed that they have begun ‘advanced talks’ with Brighton.
Sources closer to the south coast club rejected those claims, but White has reportedly told friends that he expects to find a new club this summer.
White on Sunday broke his silence on the rumours, but did his best to dampen the speculation.
However, it appears a move to Arsenal is very much on the cards – and Gunners supporters should be excited at what he can bring….
White has had a rapid rise to fortune in English football after his extremely successful loan at Leeds United during the Whites’ championship winning 2019/20 season.
An ever-present under Marcelo Bielsa, that victory saw the Yorkshire side gain promotion back to the top tier of English football for the first time since 2004.
Leeds and Bielsa did try to make White’s move permanent without success. Indeed, they three with bids of £18m, £23m, and £28m before using those funds to instead sign internationals Robin Koch and then Diego Llorente.
For Leeds though, White was the perfect fit. Leeds United play very much ‘total football’ with the ball at their feet, the same as Brighton and the same as what Mikel Arteta is trying to implement at Arsenal.
TEAMtalk editor and Leeds United fan James Marshment watched White extensively during his time at Elland Road. He’s an enormous fan of the player and believes the signing will prove excellent business for the Gunners.
“Ben White is a complete defender and it’s hard to highlight any one strength, he’s such an outstanding footballer. He has excellent reading of the game, is brilliant at tackling, and is quick to snuff out a dangerous situation.
“If I had to pick out his most outstanding asset though, it’s his ability to bring the ball out of defence and carry play up the field. It’s not unusual for him to carry the ball 30 or 40 yards having beaten two or three men. In that regard, he’s the nearest English equivalent since Rio Ferdinand.”
We also asked James about how he believes White’s qualities can be implemented on Arteta’s system. He answered:
“Those assets will compliment Arsenal perfectly and the way Arteta wants to set his side up. It’s something he’s tried to induce with David Luiz in the side – but he was too error-prone and doesn’t really have the tactical awareness of when to run with the ball and when to release it quickly.
“That’ll be different with Ben White. And with someone like Thomas Partey able to drop in and cover for him for those runs – in much the way Kalvin Phillips did for White at Leeds – it’ll take Arsenal to another level. I’m not saying they can definitely push for the top four… But White will be a transformative and significant signing for Arsenal.
“I can see him being named captain too within a year of his signing, such will be his influence.”
With Arsenal having statistically the third-best defence in the league last season you would struggle to pick out the key man in the backline or Arteta’s favoured centre-half pairing. This is due to several factors such as Gabriel’s inability to speak English, David Luiz who has now left, and the very inconsistent Rob Holding.
White a perfect replacement for David Luiz
David Luiz was by far the most important cog in the north Londoners’ backline due to his ability of switching play to Kieran Tierney and / or making progressive passes into the forwards. It’s a knack no-one else in the squad could do.
However, in White they will have a defender who can pass and move through the lines. They’ll also have someone far less error-prone.
Not only will he bring individual quality to the side, he will help improve the whole system and dynamic of the team for the better.
White’s ability to progress the ball into the final third of the pitch is extremely good despite playing in an average back-line at Brighton.
This should lay focus onto what White brings to the team rather than just as an individual.
And with David Luiz no longer at the club and Granit Xhaka likely to depart to Roma, ball progression from deep is now a core area that Arteta needs to strengthen.
But in White, Arsenal have a man who not just ticks that box, he’ll enhance it and soon become the key cog for Arteta’s new broom at Arsenal. It’s a deal that very much ticks all the boxes….
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