Arsenal have reportedly come to a £50 million (roughly $68 million) agreement with Brighton for defender Ben White. The successful move for the 23-year-old center back came after two previous bids were rejected by the Seagulls. Assuming the transfer is completed at the reported price, White will be the fifth most expensive center back in Premier League history.
A bit of a late bloomer, White received his first international call up for England at any level in May of this year. Although he did not feature in any of the Euro 2020 matches for England, he did make his international debut for his country during a friendly with Austria in June. This was followed by his first start for England four days later against Romania. England kept clean sheets in both of White’s appearances last month.
The defender has also experienced an interesting rise for club as well. White has spent three of the last four seasons on loan, playing in four different tiers in English soccer during this timeframe. In fact, he has played in League Two, League One, the Championship, and the Premier League in four consecutive years. His 2019-20 campaign for Leeds was when he started gaining recognition around the country.
— Benjamin White (@ben6white) June 7, 2021
White played 46 league matches for Leeds that season. It was during this campaign in which Leeds won the EFL Championship and White was awarded as the team’s Young Player of the Season, and also included in the EFL Championship Team of the Year. Leeds made attempts to sign White from Brighton on a permanent deal following their successful season together. However, the Seagulls rejected three different bids for White, including a final £25 million offer. Leeds ended up signing Robin Koch eight days later.
On paper, White will essentially be a direct replacement for the outgoing David Luiz. Although many Arsenal fans suspected that William Saliba would transition into the ‘Luiz role,’ the young Frenchman was again loaned out to gain more experience. Similar to Luiz, White likes to have the ball at his feet, make long passes, and dribble out of pressure. Very much a modern center back, White also enjoys getting up the pitch, utilizing his speed and aggression to make interceptions, and playing lots of short passes to break through opposing teams. Here are his 2020/21 Premier League averages at center back compared to Luiz and current Arsenal central defender Rob Holding.
Statistically speaking, White’s numbers do not exactly jump off the page. Among Premier League center backs, his per 90 minute ranks for the 2020/21 campaign are: 26th in tackles, 9th in interceptions, 54th in clearances (last), 52nd in aerial duels, 2nd in successful dribbles, and 34th in successful long balls. Nevertheless, as a ball-playing center back, White’s numbers somewhat compared to Manchester City’s John Stones last season.
Statistics, especially for central defenders, do not always tell the entire story though. White is just 23 and certainly has the potential to excel with Arsenal. The reigning Brighton Player of the Season obviously garnered plenty of attention over the last two summers and is highly-rated around the Premier League. Although his best position is at center back, he can also fill in at right back and even in midfield. A possible long-term partnership with fellow 23-year-old central defender Gabriel Magalhaes seems very promising for the Gunners.
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