Ben White is now an Arsenal player after signing a five year deal as Mikel Arteta seeks to bolster his squad ahead of next season, but what will he add to the team for the £50m outlay?
White is a player capable of significantly improving Arsenal’s defence and propelling them back to Champions League football. After a disappointing campaign that saw Arsenal left without European football for the first time in 25 years, signing a player of White’s calibre would be a real statement of intent from the North London side.
Released from Southampton and picked up by Brighton in 2014, White had loan spells at Newport County, Peterborough United and, most notably, Leeds United, helping Marcelo Bielsa’s side earn promotion to the Premier League in the 2019/20 campaign after a sixteen-year absence from the top-flight division.
Following an impressive loan spell at Elland Road, the Yorkshire outfit were keen on making his deal permanent 12 months ago. Despite offering three bids for White, with the final offer believed to be within the region of £25 million, Marcelo Bielsa’s side were unable to prize him away from The Amex Stadium.
Subsequently, White enjoyed a fantastic debut Premier League season under Graham Potter, breaking into the first team at the Amex Stadium and proving one of the top-flight’s leading performers in 2020-21. Making 39 appearances in all competitions last season, helping his side keep 12 clean sheets in the Premier League, White’s excellent form earned him a place in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man England squad for the Euros, following the withdrawal of Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold when he sustained a thigh injury during England’s first pre-tournament friendly against Austria on June 2.
After a disappointing campaign, Arteta is now keen to secure a new right-sided centre-back this summer to partner either Gabriel or Pablo Mari.
White has predominantly been utilised by Potter on the right side of a back three alongside captain Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster within Graham Potter’s heavily favoured 3-4-1-2 formation but also operated at times in the right-back position in Tariq Lamptey’s extended absence through injury.
Additionally, White has shown himself to be equally adept within a defensive midfield role. This is a position he has played and excelled in on numerous occasions under both Bielsa and Potter at Leeds and Brighton respectively in recent seasons, also impressing in this position recently as a substitute during England’s pre-tournament friendly against Austria.
White’s versatility is certainly something that will appeal to Arteta and would slot straight into the back four in Arteta’s preferred 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation. However, his versatility and experience in operating within a back three would also give Arteta’s side more tactical flexibility, allowing the Spaniard the option of using White either on the right side or centre of back three within either a more pragmatic 3-4-3 or 3-4-2-1 approach against the more dangerously offensive sides in comparison to Arteta’s more conventional 4-2-3-1 formation.
White’s composure, versatility, consistency, raw ability, and strong defensive capabilities means he would prove a significant upgrade on the likes of Rob Holding and Calum Chambers as the Gunners seek strengthen their first XI. However, it remains unclear what White’s potential arrival in that position would mean for William Saliba, who has spent two seasons on loan since joining Arsenal from Saint-Etienne for £27 million in 2019 and is tipped to fight for a place on his return.
Arsenal were not White’s only suitors, with Manchester United and Liverpool also rumoured to be interested in signing the Brighton star, but the sheer speed and force of the Gunners pursuit appears to have blown all competition away and allowed them to secure a deal for the incredibly talented defender, who has proven he is more than capable of thriving in the Premier League. It’s all been most un-Arsenal-like.
The signing could prove instrumental in propelling Arsenal back to the Champions League and making them a real force within England’s top flight once again.