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Ben White's underrated impact
He was snubbed for an England call up but he has been pivotal for Arsenal so far this season
It is not normally my preference for a player to move out of position to cover for a player that is injured. I think that when you have to do this sort of action it means that you didn’t plan out your depth very well with your squad building.
All that being said…
I think that Arsenal made the right choice with Ben White stepping up (and sort of replacing in the first eleven) the injured Takehiro Tomiyasu.
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So far this season, I think that White has been one of Arsenal’s key players. Arsenal’s system requires some interesting things from the fullbacks. They don’t play like a “regular” fullback rather, they are sort of a hybrid center back, midfielder, and, attacking player. The switch from Tomiyasu to White has made this a much more seamless switch than what we saw last season with the switch from Tomiyasu to Cedric.
White’s radar I think accurately reflects what he has been able to do so far this season, even if perhaps it undercounts his overall impact.
Looking at a different view, the graphic below shows White compared to all the other right-backs in the Premier League this season.
Overall I think this paints a very good picture of his performance this season and puts it in the proper context, White has been one of the best right back’s in the Premier League and he isn’t even a “real” fullback.
Performance this season
White’s passing has been solid this season, he hasn’t put up Oleksandr Zinchenko level passing numbers but he has certainly not looked like a fish out of water playing in the highly demanding role that Mikel Arteta wants.
He has been a key passing hub for Arsenal, he averages the most attempts and the third most completions. He has also taken up a larger burden of moving the ball into the final third, ranking second in final third entry passes.
Overall he has been an efficient passer at a high volume of passes.
His overall value with his passing is limited by his location. With average touches that are around the halfway line or further away and limited overlapping on the flanks most of his passes have been intermediate or low value.
He has made up for the relatively few high-value passing with that high volume we touched on earlier. Looking at his stats compared to his fullback peers again shows that he is doing a very good job in the role that has been given to him.
Still a good defender
Arsenal have been a good defensive team this season and I think White has been a major part of that. I thought that after some adjustment last season he became a very dependable defender and that has continued even with a shift out wide where he has been up against some of the toughest guys to contain one on one.
He isn’t an active part of Arsenal’s high press and that will hurt his radar, but I think that is by design where he is a player that looks to give support when Arsenal press to limit the ability for teams to play quickly over the press into the channels. The combination with William Saliba on this has calmed my nerves with both players being okay with being able to cover in these locations.
Areas for improvement
I have been full of praise and it is deserved.
I would be incomplete to gloss over that playing with White out wide does come with a tradeoff. That tradeoff is in the attacking third.
White is a good middle-third player, he is putting up good progressive pass numbers but his ability to play the final ball is one that could use some improvement.
Part of this could be one where with more opportunities he could improve. Currently, he leads the team in touches per 90 with 77, but only 19 of those are coming in the final third.
White is averaging less than 1 key pass per 90 (0.6) and just 1.1 passes completed into the penalty area per 90. Maybe it will get better with my more opportunities it just has been the one minor blemish on an otherwise excellent start to his season.
We won’t talk too much about his crossing and instead end things looking at his impressive crab cake.
Enjoy your Premier League free weekend. Next week the odds will return as we get back into the non-stop action until the World Cup.