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Ben White's form for Brighton last term looks set to land him a move to Arsenal
Ben White's form for Brighton last term looks set to land him a move to Arsenal

Arsenal are reportedly on the verge of signing Brighton defender Ben White — and it will cost them an eye-watering £50million to get their man.

The Gunners are believed to have already had two bids rejected for the England international, with the Seagulls standing firm on their valuation of the defender.

But amid rumours that face-to-face talks have taken place between the relevant parties, there is a growing expectation the 23-year-old centre-back will soon seal a move to the Emirates.

With only one full Premier League season under his belt, we run the rule over whether White is worth such a hefty investment. 

Do Arsenal need a centre-back?

While Arsenal's failure to qualify for Europe was deeply disappointing, only two teams were able to boast a better defensive record than Mikel Arteta’s side last term. 

The Spaniard appears to have eliminated the defensive mishaps that had become such a regular occurrence under his predecessors, settling on a centre-back partnership of Rob Holding and Gabriel.

Arsenal's defensive unit could also be strengthened by the return of £27m signing William Saliba after another fruitful loan spell in Ligue 1 with Nice.

With funds at a premium due to the financial impact of the conronavirus pandemic, it is rather surprising the Gunners are pursuing a high-profile signing in a position they appear to have cover for. 

English, gifted and in demand

Arsenal will regard it as a significant coup if they are able to secure Ben White's services
Arsenal will regard it as a significant coup if they are able to secure Ben White's services

Having received the ultimate masterclass under Marcelo Bielsa’s tutelage while on loan at Leeds in 2019-20, White was linked with a move away from Brighton last summer. 

But he opted to stay at the club he had been with since the age of 16 and quickly established himself in Graham Potter's starting XI. 

And that decision tuned out to be a wise one as White proved to be one of the top flight's best centre-backs during a stellar campaign. 

Few were more impressed than England manager Gareth Southgate, who selected the defender in his 26-man squad for Euro 2020 when Trent Alexander-Arnold was forced out with injury.

Starting attacks from defence

Ben White is a sublime passer of the ball and can kick-start attacks from the back
Ben White is a sublime passer of the ball and can kick-start attacks from the back

A trait to White’s game that has been widely lauded is his ability to move the ball up the pitch.

He ranked 14th among all central defenders for attempted passes into the final third (358) and the same for completed final third passes (236) last season. 

Arteta will be hoping White’s eagerness to progress the ball forward will help unlock an Arsenal attack that only managed 55 league goals in 2020-21.

A proper defender

While often acting as a conductor of attacks, White has not forgotten about his primary responsibility as a defender.

The centre-back made 62 interceptions last season, putting him in the Premier League’s top five players. In contrast, only three teams made fewer interceptions than Arsenal's total of 351 in 2020-21.

White also won back possession 112 times in the defensive third of the pitch, which was inside the division’s top 15 performers.

He was integral to Brighton's airtight defence, with only six Premier League sides conceding less goals than their 46, despite Potter's men finishing just two places above the relegation spots.

Ben White is not just a ball-playing centre-back
Ben White is not just a ball-playing centre-back

Versatility

With the ability to operate in a two-man or three-man central defence, White is incredibly versatile. 

Having played in a traditional back four under Bielsa, he seamlessly adapted to Potter’s back three.

Deployed in either one of the wider slots or in the heart of the defence, White made the step up to Premier League football look easy.

He has also shown he is more than capable of playing in a defensive midfield role, coming on in that position in England’s pre-Euro 2020 friendly with Austria.

Verdict

With age on his side, White could be a superb signing for Arsenal. 

The Gunners would be securing one of the Premier League's most promising defenders, while simultaneously removing him from the market before their rivals can pounce.

He will only further strengthen the impressive defensive structure Arteta has implemented and will also add attacking impetus to a side that has previously struggled for goals.

This could be a transformative signing at the Emirates — and for £50m, so it should be.

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ArsenalBrightonBen WhitePremier League
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11:23 (+00:00)16 Sep 2021 (Thu)