How Arsenal Can Get the Best Out of Ben White

Ben White
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Ben White’s Arsenal debut was, to put it nicely, an absolute disaster. He was bullied by Ivan Toney and struggled aerially against his first big challenge of the season. With a big price tag on his back and a disappointing display, there is no doubt that Ben White will be targeted for the weeks to come, and Arsenal need to figure out how to get the best out of him.

How Arsenal Can Get the Best Out of Ben White

All at Sea

Arsenal have had one of the shakiest defences in the league for the last five/six years. Ever since Laurent Koscielny began to lose a bit of his edge, the Gunners have looked at players who just haven’t been able to cut it at the top level. This ranges from Skhodran Mustafi to the inconsistent David Luiz.

Ben White was purchased to buck that trend. Having impressed at both Leeds United and Brighton, enough to even get him into England’s European Championship Squad, Arsenal paid £50 million for a player who needs an old head next to him to nurture him into the team. Arsenal don’t have that. Instead, they have Pablo Mari, a defender who has never really adapted to the English game, and will instill no confidence in his largely inexperienced partner at the back.

Brentford dominated the game on Friday night by sticking Toney on top of White and Mbuemo on top of Mari, not the way round you’d want if you were Arsenal. Across the game, White won a total of three aerial duels out of the seven he faced, as Toney, who is three cm taller, outmuscled and outclimbed him, creating chance after chance and causing mass panic in the Arsenal defence.

Mari offered very little assistance and struggled against the pace and movement of Mbuemo. Both defenders may be good on the ball, but neither can defend in a back two.

With Chelsea at the weekend and a certain Romelu Lukaku set to partner the electric Timo Werner up top, if Arsenal don’t play to White’s strengths then it could get ugly.

Ben White: Better in a Back Three 

Brighton and Hove Albion aren’t the best team in the league by a long way, but last year, Graham Potter’s men were assured and stable at the back, conceding a reasonable 46 goals across the season. This was mainly thanks to a three at the back system deployed by Potter. He acknowledged that, to fit the highly talented Ben White into their system, they would need to have two larger centre-backs next to him to deal with aerial balls into the box.

White, with Dunk and Webster next to him, was allowed to happily press forward with the ball at his feet, something he is much more comfortable in doing, and focus on well timed tackles as opposed to aerial duels.

Chelsea themselves have also shown over the years that this system is extremely effective when one of your best defenders isn’t the tallest. If you look at Cesar Azpilicueta, he has probably been the most consistent centre-back in the league over the last eight years, and he is only 5’10. Yet he has been prolific as he is not only a great defender, but he doesn’t have to worry about aerial battles when alongside the likes of Rudiger or in previous seasons, John Terry and Gary Cahill. Instead he can instead focus on his strengths, one on one defending and his ability on the ball.

The Future Could Be Promising

Arsenal have to deploy this system against Chelsea if they are to have a chance of dealing with Lukaku and Werner. It is a shame that they got rid of David Luiz, another player who is excellent in a back three system, and would have worked well as the pivot. For Arsenal to succeed, the more defenders they have, the better. Next week will be a struggle for Ben White, but it’s the season that is more important. If he can regain the form from his time at Brighton, he will be a huge success at Arsenal.

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