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Talking Tactics

New signings: White will transform how Arsenal play

Adrian Clarke 30 Jul 2021
Ben White

Adrian Clarke says centre-back's composure on the ball can add a new dimension to the Gunners

Adrian Clarke analyses players who have changed clubs this summer and can make an impact in 2021/22.

Ben White (ARS)

The arrival of White will immediately improve Arsenal in and out of possession this season.  

He is a fast-improving central defender, who over the last two seasons with Brighton & Hove Albion and at Leeds United in the Championship, was an outstandingly calm presence.  

On the ball White possesses great quality and confidence.  

The 23-year-old can hit fabulous long-range passes from back to front, just like David Luiz, the man he has effectively replaced at Emirates Stadium.  

Left-back Kieran Tierney is sure to be the recipient of a stream of accurate switches of play from White, who will often be the catalyst of Arsenal attacks from a right-of-centre position.  

His ability to drill 40-yard passes over the last defender for runners from deep is another skill manager Mikel Arteta is sure to encourage from his latest signing.  

An average of 40.1 per cent of White's passes go forward, so his style will make Arsenal’s distribution from defence a lot more progressive in 2021/22.  

Most passes ending in final third 2020/21
Central defenders Total
Harry Maguire 370
Ben White 358
Joachim Andersen 336
Adam Webster 321
James Tarkowski 308

The England international will also carry the ball forward with purpose.  

His 24 successful dribbles were more than any other top-flight centre-back in 2020/21.

Always willing to carry the ball, especially when opponents drop off, White will add more thrust to how Arteta’s side build from the back.  

No central defender made more ball carries that included successfully taking on an opponent than White last term.  

Most carries with a take-on 2020/21
Central defenders Total
Ben White 18
Tosin Adarabioyo 11
Ethan Ampadu 10
Adam Webster 9
Ben Godfrey 9

The former Brighton man is around 6ft and slimly built, so will not add height or power to the Arsenal backline. What he will provide is excellent decision-making and a sound reading of the game.  

In 1v1 situations, White stands up and tries not to commit himself early, and he is terrific at anticipating danger.  

Last term no Brighton player made more blocks than his 22.  

White’s greatest strength in a defensive capacity is the way he steps forwards to make well-timed interceptions.  

If Arsenal focus harder on pressing higher up the pitch this season, which pre-season outings indicate will happen, his willingness to squeeze up and steal the ball when it is knocked forward will be a huge asset.  

Most interceptions 2020/21
Central defenders Total
Jan Bednarek 84
Ben White 62
Wesley Fofana 61
Liam Cooper 61
Harry Maguire 60

Only one Premier League central defender made more interceptions than White's 62 in 2020/21 - Southampton’s Jan Bednarek.  

When you compare White's figure to those of the Arsenal centre-backs from last season - Gabriel (26 interceptions), Rob Holding (24), David Luiz (16) and Pablo Mari (nine) - you can see the difference White can make.

Versatility a bonus 

Brighton primarily used a back three last term and in that shape White was the obvious pick on the right side of a trio.  

Previously at Leeds, he had regularly starred on the right of a centre-back pairing. 

Across the last two seasons, White has also been used as a holding midfielder on occasion, which is testament to his skill, nimble footwork and passing quality.  

White's positions
2020/21 Times played
Right centre-back 26
Defensive midfield 7
Right-back 2
Right midfield 1

This versatility is perfect for Arteta, who will know White will comfortably adapt to any formation or tactical instruction he provides.  

Under the Spaniard Arsenal are also an extremely fluid side with players interchanging positions throughout the 90 minutes.

Whether he is on the ball by the right touchline, in an unfamiliar area on the left, or anywhere inside the opposition half, White has the experience and skillset to thrive without being fazed. 

Arsenal have recruited a quick, reliable defender who has the quality on the ball of a central midfielder.  

He should be a roaring success in north London. 

See: Talking Tactics: New signings for 2021/22

Add Ben White (£4.5m) to your Fantasy Premier League squad

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