What Will Ben White Brings To Arsenal?

Arsenal are completing the transfer of Brighton & Hove Albion’s defender, Ben White. The 23-year-old player was recruited for a fee of 50 million pounds. Sky Sports reports that both parties have completed transfer matters and the player will undergo a medical on Wednesday. Reflecting on last season,The Gunners actually have no significant problems in the defense aspect. Mikel Arteta’s men only conceded 39 goals, the third lowest, and conceded the opportunity with the fifth lowest cumulative xG value in the 2020/21 Premier League. These statistics show that Arsenal defend better than the majority of other teams.

Improving the defense is not urgent, but Arsenal need a new centre-back to cope with the departure of David Luiz. William Saliba, completed an impressive season with OGC Nice, has not been trusted by Arteta and is loaned to Olympique Marseille for next season. The coach wanted a quality centre-back and the choice fell on Ben White. The player can be a long-term option as well as a replacement for David Luiz. Other than that, White offers qualified qualities not only in the defensive aspect. He also has reliable ball skills for Arsenal’s build-up. As a centre-back, the player who was born in Poole, south coast of England, has played a prominent role in terms of attack construction in the last two seasons.

Reliable Ball Distributor

At Brighton, White was able to play as a defender who was actively involved in the game. Graham Potter wants his team to play from the back line and the player is capable of doing his job. In the Premier League last season, White only missed two of all the Seagulls games. Brighton used to play a three-back grip with White at the center-right post. Each central defender recorded a fairly high frequency in passing or receiving feedback. In terms of passes, White’s involvement was lower than his two tandems, Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster. However, White tends to be more active in rolling the ball forward.

In the Premier League last season, White averaged 3.27 progressive passes and 3.13 passes into the final third for a total of 49.7 passes per game. His passes are more progressively oriented than Dunk (2.15 progressive passes and 3.56 passes to the final third of an average of 60 passes) or Webster (3.82 progressive passes and 4.58 passes to the final third of an average of 62 passes)., 3 passes). This ability allows White to become a commensurate substitute for David Luiz in terms of ball progression. In the Arsenal squad, Luiz is a central defender with the highest frequency of passing forwards.

Not only that, the Brazilian defender is also the Gunners’ most offensive-oriented central defender. Per game, Luiz is averaging 5.16 progressive dribbles and 1.23 carrying the ball into the final third. The player is comfortable with the ball and supports the attacking phase of his team. At Brighton, White assumed a similar role and it went smoothly.

White recorded 3.04 progressive dribbles and 1.04 dribbles in the final third per game. The former Southampton also tends to be more agile than Luiz in terms of dribbling. The Brighton defender takes risks and dribbles to go through opponents directly. Compared to other centre-backs in Europe’s top five leagues, White has a very high dribbling percentage, being in the top 7% of successful dribbles.

In addition to having a wide passing range and being able to send measured passes, White is agile in dribbling and maintaining possession of the ball. His composure and level of decision-making on the ball is invaluable if Arsenal are to build attacks from the back. Also, the player is able to bypass the opponent’s pressing line and directly distribute the ball to the attackers in the final third. From a defensive aspect, White is reliable enough to cover when his team attacks. He is often tasked with guarding the right side of the defense, filling the area so that the right wing-back, Tariq Lamptey, is free to help attack.

If you look at the player’s heatmap, you can see that White is very active on the right side. He often rises to the limit of the opponent’s final third to provide a “safety net” when his team is attacking. When his team loses the ball, White tends to react appropriately to counter-attacks. The 1.89m stature player is diligent in pressing to prevent quick attacks. However, he was not in a hurry to take risks to win the ball. White tends to keep the opponent tight so as not to be able to distribute the ball from his control area.

Last season, White didn’t have a high enough tackle or intercept average. However, he tends to be able to neutralize opponents well. White averages 1.24 passes per game blocking, coming in at 12% of centre-backs with the highest value in this metric. That statistic shows White’s defensive style is more focused on positional responsibility. If you cross to the Emirates, the player’s defensive development is interesting to watch. At Brighton, he was able to perform well in the back three scheme. At Arsenal, Arteta seems to be partnering him with Gabriel Magalhaes. The Gunners did use a three-back grip in the first half of the season, but switched to a back four in the second half.

However, changing the system doesn’t seem like a big problem for the player. In 2019/20, White performed well at Leeds United, who tended to use a four-back scheme. He was instrumental in helping the Whites promotion from the EFL Championship. On the other hand, Arteta doesn’t have to worry about the player’s versatility. Despite being only 23 years old, White has tried four different positions in the 2020/21 Premier League. Graham Potter had installed him as a central defender, defensive midfielder, right back, even a wing midfielder.

Ben White’s versatility is certainly a useful added value for Arsenal. Complete attributes in game construction or defense make him capable of filling several positions. According to Transfermarkt, he played seven times as a defensive midfielder, twice at right-back and once as a right-back in the Premier League last season. White can patch several positions such as Arsenal hit by an injury crisis. And more importantly, his versatility at such a young age means that he has great potential for growth. The player has shown the quality to compete at the back or in midfield in the future.

In the last two seasons, White’s development has been very fast and full of surprises. After only having played in League Two and League One, his name was only known after making an impressive appearance with Leeds at the age of 21. In the Premier League, he was able to adapt quickly and became a mainstay of Graham Potter.

However, White has a notable shortcoming when it comes to airball anticipation. Compared to other centre-backs in Europe’s top five leagues, he ranks in the worst 12% of players in terms of number and percentage of wins in aerial duels. White has not been able to make use of his nearly 190cm stature to overcome this aspect.

Airball ability is one thing that must be addressed by Ben White. The player himself still has a lot of time to develop. He can be a valuable addition to the Arsenal squad, especially in the long run. His current ability is also worthy of strengthening the team that is trying to reach UEFA competition tickets.


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