• September 17, 2021

Exclusive: Ben White reminded former teammate of Johan Cruyff, is ‘better than Arsenal’ and Manchester United, Chelsea and Man City may regret not signing England star two years ago

 Exclusive: Ben White reminded former teammate of Johan Cruyff, is ‘better than Arsenal’ and Manchester United, Chelsea and Man City may regret not signing England star two years ago


Arsenal have got their man and as Ben White joins from Brighton.

The centre-back, 23, has signed in a deal that will set the Gunners back £50million.

Can White fix Arsenal’s defensive issues?

Getty

Can White fix Arsenal’s defensive issues?

It’s been some rise for White, who was playing in League Two with Newport County just three years ago.

He was on Brighton’s books from 2016 but was something of an unknown quantity when he was loaned to Leeds for the 2019/20 season. That soon changed.

An injury to Luke Ayling meant White was thrust into the starting XI for Leeds’ Championship opener at Bristol City in August 2019.

City were tipped to challenge for promotion so it could have been a baptism of fire for the then 21-year-old. But Ayling said White’s excellent performance reminded him of football icon Johan Cruyff.

Leeds did all they could to make White’s loan move permanent but Brighton were more than happy to take him back

Getty Images – Getty

Leeds did all they could to make White’s loan move permanent but Brighton were more than happy to take him back

“He was just Cruyffing centre forwards,” Ayling recalled earlier this year. “He’s top, top quality.

“His mental strength to come in here as a lad who nobody knew about. If you asked the lads, I don’t think anyone really knew who Ben White was.

“A real quality player with a strong mentality. The sky is the limit for him.”

Signing for Arsenal isn’t exactly the pinnacle but it’s a leap forward and Gunners legend David Seaman is happy to see a pupil from the Marcelo Bielsa high-press school join but admittedly has a doubt about the player.

White played under one of the game’s most respected managers at a crucial time in his career

White played under one of the game’s most respected managers at a crucial time in his career

“He’s got everything [needed] to go and take hold of it and give it his best shot,” Seaman said.

“He’s got the physique, he’s got the temperament. At Leeds it’s a high-press, high-tempo game, so his fitness is also not in doubt.

“The only question mark you can put on him is can he play in the big games? But we’ll just have to wait and see, because he’s not played in them yet.”

However, White’s soon-to-be former teammate Adam Lallana disagrees with Seaman’s concerns about White’s ability to raise his game.

White was called up to England’s Euro 2020 squad but didn’t play during the finals

Getty

White was called up to England’s Euro 2020 squad but didn’t play during the finals

“Having played alongside Ben at Brighton & Hove Albion this season, I can vouch that he is a player who steps up to the bigger the game,” Lallana wrote in The Times in June.

“He is someone who looks even more comfortable when in the company of the best players. His physique is something that he has worked on throughout this season.

“At 6ft, perhaps there were question marks over his size as a centre half, but those have been dispelled.”

However, is Arsenal enough for White? Simon Jordan is in no doubt there are better opportunities out there for the defender.

White has only played in the Premier League for one season but is now viewed as one of the division’s top centre-backs

AFP

White has only played in the Premier League for one season but is now viewed as one of the division’s top centre-backs

“If you’re comparing and contrasting Brighton to Arsenal then yes it is a step up,” Jordan told talkSPORT.

“But if you’re comparing somebody who’s in the England squad that people in the game think is a Rolls Royce then what is the move he’s making to Arsenal for?”

Danny Mills concurs with Jordan that the player should be aiming higher and suggested some of Arsenal’s rivals will come to regret not going after White.

Should White have held out for a bigger move?

Should White have held out for a bigger move?

“I think he is better than Arsenal at the moment,” Mills told talkSPORT.

“I watched him at Leeds and after three games I said, ‘Man City, Chelsea, Man United, just buy him’. He was only valued at around £17m at the time.

“He’s got everything, he’s a fabulous one-on-one defender, he likes a tackle, and then he can play. He’s very comfortable on the ball.

“Champions League or even Europa League football is where he needs to be.”

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