Why Mikel Arteta is DESPERATE to lure Ben White to Arsenal: The Brighton centre back’s ability on the ball, flexibility and huge potential justifies a £50m fee… but how does he compare to his potential new team-mates?
- Arsenal are set to officially announce the signing of Ben White from Brighton
- Centre back White starred last season and looks the perfect fit for his new club
- Adept on the ball and at reading the game, White lives up to his hefty £50m fee
- White has the better of his new team-mates in defence at Arsenal next season
- Sportsmail takes a look at White and delves into his strengths and weaknesses
Mikel Arteta has been desperate to land Ben White at Arsenal this summer, and the £50million deal luring him across from Brighton now looks imminent.
White, off the back of a superb season at the Amex and a memorable Euro 2020 campaign with England – albeit one in which he didn’t get on the pitch – has been on a short holiday and now looks set to become Arsenal’s latest new arrival.
In the end, it took three attempts to seal the switch, with Brighton having held firm by rejecting bids of £40m and then £47m with various add-ons. But finally, their valuation has been met and White, 23, will move on.
Arsenal are set to officially announce the signing of Ben White (right) from Brighton for £50m
Gabriel Magalhaes (left) and Rob Holding (right) will be tussling with White to keep their places
This may very well turn out to be a match made in heaven. After all, Arsenal are in the midst of a major rebuild under Arteta, and the club’s focus is firmly on enjoying success over the long-term. White fits into those plans seamlessly.
The price tag is a big one, but represents a wise investment on a player whose best days are still ahead of him. He may lack in experience on the biggest stages, but White is a truly modern-day centre back.
His ability to play out coolly from the back will offer Arsenal a whole new dimension for the next campaign, and White is not afraid to push on and help with the flow of attacks, too. Supporters have plenty to be excited about.
So, as Arsenal inch ever closer to an official announcement, Sportsmail has taken a closer look at White and compared him to his potential new team-mates…
Mikel Arteta was desperate to snap up White and the centre back looks a perfect fit for Arsenal
What are White’s strengths?
A defender’s primary job, of course, is to keep the ball out of their net, but Arsenal and boss Arteta will be looking for much more than that from White. Their new man is comfortable in possession, and that will be key.
During his 36 appearances for Brighton in the Premier League last season, White was able to read play brilliantly, and then move on attacks with the right choice of pass. Now, he will need to hone this ability further.
Arteta is very much a modern coach, one who demands that each of his players, including the goalkeeper, are all adept when on the ball. To this end, his centre backs are a key component in progressing play forward.
White is cool and collected in possession and his passing range will help with Arsenal’s attacks
This has been an issue for his team, however, and there is hope that White will be the fix they need. The talented youngster certainly has all the attributes to do just that, and is also renowned for his silky close control.
Another area Arteta will want to work on for the next season is wiping out the sloppy mistakes from his players. There have already been a handful in pre-season, and the club will be made to pay dearly if they continue.
The good news is that White, across his 82 league games for Brighton and Leeds over the past two seasons, has not made an error leading to a shot from the opposition – showing he can balance risk and reward.
England international White is also adept at reading the game and dropping deep to sweep up
White will have no problems with his physicality, either. During his loan spells at Newport County and Peterborough in particular, he experienced different, robust styles of play further down the league pyramid.
That meant that when the top-flight came calling at Brighton, White was perfectly equipped to ride tackles, draw fouls and impose himself all over the field. Teams may fancy themselves when clattering into Arsenal, but White will help to stop this.
He is also incredibly versatile, offering some welcome flexibility to Arteta when choosing his teams. White was fielded as a defensive midfielder at Leeds, and played in both full back positions for Newport.
Arsenal and Arteta will admire White’s knack for progressive passes and also his tough tackling
It is widely considered that White’s greatest strength is his anticipation. His knack of keeping a close eye on the danger in front of him, and then stepping in to clean up, will help Arsenal play more on the front foot.
Often acting as the anchor for Brighton’s defenders, White was entrusted with sweeping up from deep, both centrally and in the channels, and he welcomed this burden with open arms, showing fine leadership skills.
Finally, his range of passing is another string to his bow. Whether it be a short roll out to feet or a long, raking switch of play, White can do it all. Arteta will admire this progressive nature, and so will the crowds at the Emirates.
Are there any weaknesses?
Like any player still learning their trade, there are several chinks in White’s armour. He is, however, well on his way to ironing these out, and that is another reason why Arsenal have been willing to splash the cash on him.
White looks to be occasionally lacking in the air, and this department will need to be worked on to make Arteta’s team a more formidable force of nature this season. He is rarely bullied, but there is certainly room for improvement.
The £50m fee, while not his fault at all, may also weigh on his shoulders. It is a commanding figure for a player still growing, but also cast iron proof that Arsenal believe he will be able to flourish into a true world beater.
White’s game needs a little work in the air and he was caught out a little in behind last season
It is simply not true to label White as slow, but he will not be one of the most rapid players at the club, either. This has rarely affected his game, such is the brilliance of his awareness, but he will need to be wary of balls sent over his shoulder.
There is also the slight drawback over his experience. Having been a regular in the Premier League and made his debut for England, White has effectively seen it all, but taking the step into the Champions League is a different proposition altogether.
With his affable nature and infectious smile, it won’t take long for White to settle into his new surroundings. But it would do no harm for him to be afforded some time, with this new move the biggest challenge of his career to date.
How does he compare to his team-mates?
White is expected to be dropped straight into the heart of Arsenal’s defence next season, and it is not difficult to see why. This is because he outranks his new centre back team-mates in almost every area from the last top-flight campaign.
In terms of appearances, White made the most with 36. Rob Holding, a surprise stalwart for the club, made 30, with Gabriel Magalhaes and Pablo Mari behind them on 23 and 10 respectively.
The most important statistic for a defender is clean sheets, and White shares this mantle with Holding. They both earned 11 last term, while Gabriel with six and Mari’s four rank behind them out of the group.
It is Holding who reigns supreme for the most amount of tackles inside 90 minutes on average. White thundered into 1.38, but Holding has trumped him with 1.51. Mari is also ahead of the new man with 1.50, while Gabriel has 1.13.
White has the better of his new team-mates in many areas and should be a guaranteed starter
Back comes White, who has recorded the highest number of interceptions per 90 minutes on average. With 1.75, he tops this list, while Gabriel finds himself in second with 1.17. Mari, meanwhile, made 0.90, and Holding put in 0.84.
White’s prowess when bringing the ball out has already been highlighted, and to little surprise he comfortably made the most dribbles on average with 0.68. Trailing behind is Mari on 0.30, while Holding has 0.28 and Gabriel has 0.23.
Also top of the chances created per 90 is White. A cool and collected figure at the back, he set up 0.23 last season, with Mari the only team-mate close to him on 0.20. Then, Holding has 0.14 and Gabriel is further behind on 0.09.
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