More than a few eyebrows were raised when Arsenal spent £50m to sign Ben White from Brighton. White is on a roll, anchoring Arsenal’s most convincing defense in recent years while offering a fresh dimension with his ability to charge upfield. It was a run from White, stepping up to join an attack in open play, that ultimately rocked Watford and gave Emile Smith Rowe the chance to score the winner. He also made timely interceptions at the back, notably from a Joshua King volley in the second half, and increasingly looks an example of money well spent.
Arsenal extended their unbeaten Premier League run to eight games after a nervy 1-0 win over Watford at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners are currently unbeaten in nine games across all competitions and find themselves sixth in the Premier League table, with just three points separating them from third-placed Manchester City. White’s performance against Watford showed his, and this Arsenal team’s, emergence from a very bad start to the season. In White’s case, with an Arsenal attack having broken down and Watford beginning to counter, the former Brighton man stepped up high to intercept the ball before driving forward with it.
White has been starting on the right side of a back four alongside Gabriel. His positioning in defensive transition and front-footed approach with his back to the goal makes his game look easy. Gabriel has needed the perfect partner alongside him this season and has found the ideal defensive partner in Ben White. The duo has formed a newfound partnership at the back and has been communicating well with each other as the Arsenal defense looks much more stable than what it was at the start of the season. Their respective levels have reached such a point where even the most minor of errors go unnoticed due to the rarity of their occurrence.
White has won 87.36% of the defensive actions he has attempted and has a high success rate in winning defensive as well as aerial duels. White won the most number of aerial as well as defensive duels against Watford and was rock solid at the back. The English centre-back has attempted a high number of 50-50 duels higher up the pitch and has the pace to reach the ball quicker than the opposition players. White has also attempted a high number of aerial duels in his penalty area and has won 50% of these duels.
The 24-year-old has also attempted a high number of interceptions in his half and can stop most of the attacks that the opposition creates, as he can read the game well and can position himself accordingly. White made timely interceptions at the back against Watford, notably from a Joshua King volley in the second half, and increasingly looks like an example of money very well spent.
The pass map for White indicates that the centre-back has played several passes into the final third of the pitch that generated a high threat on the opposition defense. White has a knack to carry the ball upwards and surge into the opposition’s half when his team has possession. This pulls the midfield of the opposition team towards him and creates spaces for his wide forwards to create spaces behind the midfield.
White has the highest xT from the passes that he has played to Saka and Pepe, as both players play off the right flank for Arsenal. He has completed most passes to his fellow centre-back as Arsenal look to keep possession of the ball in the build-up towards goal.
It is a wonder why he was not called up by Gareth Southgate to the England squad, but perhaps he must prove himself as one of the nation’s brightest defenders over a longer period to be seen as a real contender for the side. He has been impressive on the ground. Both with the ball at his feet and when trying to take it away from others, comfortable in a back four or a back three, White seems ideal for this England setup. There will be ups and downs to come, but few centre-backs in the country are operating with the 24-year-old’s level of conviction. The most exciting part is that he can only get better.