Arsenal have finally announced the signing of 23-year-old Brighton and Hove Albion centre-back, Ben White, for a reported fee of £50 million, despite several hiccups during negotiation, coupled with the player’s involvement on international duty for his nation.
In line with his imminent addition, some questions are inevitable. One would wonder which of the current centre-back is capable of forming a formidable partnership with the highly talented player. But is White better than those already on the team? Would he even be a starter?
Considering Mikel Arteta’s preference for David Luiz’ type of ball-playing centre-back, Ben White obviously stands out in that regard. His ability to make progressive passes, drive forward with the ball, and lay inch-perfect (either short, long, or diagonal) passes to his teammate can never be overemphasized.
Last season he played 84 accurate long balls, having 1747 passes and 83.2% accuracy in 36 Premier League appearances. Compared to Arsenal’s current centre-backs, his pass percentage is slightly lower to the like of Gabriel Magalhaes (23 appearances, 1550 passes, with 86% success rate), Calum Chambers (10 appearances, 479 passes, with 83.9% success rate), Rob Holding (30 appearances, 1802 passes, with 87% success rate) and Pablo Mari (12 appearances, 629 passes, with 88% success rate), but he was involved in more games and made fewer passes per match than the aforementioned players.
His well-timed runs with the ball from the back, pace, and being press resistant (the ability to manoeuvre is way from onrushing opponents) are among the qualities which put him right in the midst of claiming a starting berth.
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The Brighton and Hove Albion 2020/21 player of the season had once been praised for his tough tackling style by his former manager Michael Flynn. Last season, White had a 53% success rate, making 1.36 per game. This stat comes short compared to Pablo Mari and Rob Holding’s 1.5 and 1.4 tackles per game respectively, which reminds me of Italian legend Paolo Maldini’s quote which says “if I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake”. This obviously is why Ben White describes his own style as a “cool” and “calm” centre-back.
Though this also takes into notice White played a majority of his season in a back three with Lewis Dunk taking charge of such responsibilities. This strengthens the question of “which of the current centre-back is capable of forming a formidable partnership with the highly talented player?”
As a right-sided centre-back, coming into Arsenal’s defense he’s most likely going to partner with either Pablo Mari or Gabriel Magalhaes who are considered to have different profiles as well. Both players are left-footed but offer different approaches and styles. Gabriel Magalhaes is known to be very fast despite his height. Christophe Galtier once praised Gabriel for having a lot of character for such a young boy. He covers his side well and wins a lot of aerial duels, he’s also known for his distribution ability, looking to play the forward especially into the opposition half.
Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand had once admitted that Gabriel has an aggressive style of play with great positioning. Unlike Pablo Mari who is calmer, with an imposing figure on the pitch due to his physique and height which gives him aerial prowess. He’s also adapt in making accurate short and long passes and intelligent in positioning but falls short in pace. He’s easily spun and weak in recovery pace as he can get beaten.
Having a player whose style complements Ben White would surely be one with more aggressiveness, pacey, and has an imposing aerial prowess, which could be seen in Gabriel Magalhaes than Mari who falls short in this regard due to his lack of pace and aggressiveness.
Ben White can also feature as a right-back, where he filled in for at Brighton in Lapmtey’s absence – especially considering Arsenal are short in the area with Hector Bellerin being wooed by the likes of Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid.
With Arteta sanctioning a £50 million deal for Ben White, it doesn’t look like a move for a player who will be signed to sit on the bench, rather, it looks like a well-calculated move which will see Arteta having someone capable of offering something very different from the options in has at his disposal.