They say attack wins you games but defence wins you titles. It has never been truer than in today’s fast-paced game. Today’s game is seeing attacking talents win matches but teams that possess top-class defenders are the ones walking away with all the titles. Be it Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City or Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan, the rule stays the same. A global tournament like Euro can be a model sample for this argument.
Many world-class defenders like Ruben Dias, Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt are playing at the Euros. They’re looking to help their side win the coveted trophy. Amongst a myriad of stars is a budding centre-back who is making his baby steps on the international stage.
— Benjamin White (@ben6white) June 7, 2021
FootTheBall is covering players who are shining in the domestic leagues already but still haven’t got the recognition they deserve. A good Euro might be the stepping stone that helps them burst onto the world-class stage and make a name for themselves. Ben White of England is the one in our focus today. A good Euro 2020 might make him a possible target for many of Europe’s elite clubs.
WHO IS BEN WHITE?
Benjamin William White is a 23-year-old who plays as a centre-back for the Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion. Born and brought up on the South coast of England, White was snapped up by Southampton’s youth system. He was released at the age of 16 and was quickly signed by fellow Southern club Brighton. He made his debut with the club in 2016/2017 at the age of 19. To get regular playing time, White was loaned to various clubs in and around the Championship.
Newport County, a League Two club, was his first destination. Michael Flynn, Newport’s manager, described the loan signing as a coup. He made himself a regular at the club in the 2017/2018 season and won their player of the year award. White went up against Harry Kane in the FA Cup and earned great praise for his performance. Flynn described White as their best-ever loan signing at the end of his spell.
White returned to the Amex stadium for the start of the 2018/2019 campaign. He was not happy with a 4th choice centre-back status and made another loan move to Peterborough United in January. He made his impact in League One as well.
White joined forces with the legendary Argentine tactician Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds. White’s game was elevated under Bielsa’s tutelage. His positioning and reading of the game improved massively. White’s performances earned him admirers all across the country as Liverpool and other top clubs scouted him. White played a key role as Leeds got promoted to the Premier League after 16 years and he was included in the team of the season.
White returned to Brighton and stayed there despite interest from other top clubs. He played in 36 games in the campaign making himself an invaluable member of the first team.
Ben White is a right-footed centre-back who can play in multiple positions in the defence. He plays as a right-sided centre-back in a four-man back and in the middle in a three-man backline. His versatility means he can also be deployed as a right-back or also as a defensive midfielder in the middle of the park. White excels in midfield too and it’s a good headache for his manager to choose where to start him.
Standing at 6 feet, White is not the biggest of centre-backs and it sometimes hinders his aerial ability. White has an aerial success ratio 0f 49% compared to an average of 61% in the Premier League. He more than makes up for it with other aspects of his defensive game. White has an incredible positional awareness and rarely gets caught out of position. He reads the game and makes crucial interceptions. He makes fewer tackles which could be indicative of the fact that he’s never caught in a desperate situation to make a desperate tackle or a lunge. Even when he does he makes sure that he wins the ball. However, adding some assertiveness to his game could be the next step in his development.
White’s size gives him incredible pace and agility on the ball. He has a good starting position to win most foot races against attackers. White is an incredibly good passer of the ball. He has a calm head and plays long balls over the top with ease. At Leeds, to meet Bielsa’s requirements, he became a press-resistant carrier of the ball. He bombs forward from the back adding another body in the attack.
Ben White (‘97) versus Manchester City – ranked against Brighton players:
— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) May 19, 2021
White, when deployed in the middle of the pitch, thrives as a destroyer. He wins the ball back and plays a progressive pass. He also has a keen eye for goal and a good technique. White drops his shoulder like a seasoned midfielder to burst past his man and unleash a shot.
Ben White (‘97) versus Austria:
23 minutes played
3/3 passes completed
3 passes received
1 shot taken
1 goal-line clearance
— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) June 3, 2021
Gareth Southgate, England’s manager, was impressed with this trait and gave him his England debut in midfield. On his England debut against Austria, he made a goal-line clearance and later went forward and almost scored. White is a full package that offers everything.
Ben White is only 23 years old and has scope for improvement. He has played in all four professional tiers of English football and has learnt the maximum from each tier. What’s more impressive is the way he applied himself in the Premier League. He was injury-free for the majority of the campaign and made 36 appearances.
🏆 And our final award of the evening, Men’s Player of the Season, chosen by you, goes to…
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) June 6, 2021
On the back of a prolific season domestically he’d like to translate that form into international football.
PREDICTION FOR EUROS
Gareth Southgate was impressed by White’s versatility. The English manager prefers players that can play in multiple positions. White was surprisingly included in Southgate’s 33-man provisional squad on the back of a single season in the Premier League. However, he was left out of the final 26-man squad for Euros.
An injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold opened up a spot for him. Southgate took a gamble and called him up.
— England (@England) June 7, 2021
White might not be an outright starter for England initially. An extended injury layoff for Harry Maguire coupled with Tyrone Mings’ form concerns might provide him with a starting spot. Jordan Henderson is also returning on the back of a long-term injury meaning a defensive midfielder spot might also be up for grabs. White must be prepared to take any chance he gets and excel at it. If he can play a key role in bringing the trophy home his value might just skyrocket.
PERFECT LANDING SPOT
White has a contract at the Amex stadium till 2024. He was tipped to leave much earlier. While on loan with Leeds he was scouted by many top clubs including Liverpool and Manchester United. White was nicknamed Rolls Royce in the Championship. Despite all that interest he chose to sign a long-term contract with Brighton. Considering his hunger to develop it was the right step. He ended up winning Men’s Player of the Season at Brighton.
Given White’s skill set, he can be a perfect fit for any club that challenges for trophies. In particular Chelsea and Manchester United and Arsenal might be the perfect destinations. Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel uses a three-man backline and is on the hunt for a right centre-back. White can also play as a wing-back or a defensive midfielder.
#ThreeLions new boy Ben White is a man in demand
Arsenal are the latest side to add him to their wish list https://t.co/zavo9CKsu1
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) June 10, 2021
Manchester United are looking for a long-term partner for Harry Maguire and White might be the perfect solution. Same goes for Arsenal who are searching for a defender to build their defence around.
This summer provides a huge opportunity for Ben White to become a legend in the English folklore by helping them bring the trophy home. If he can just do that his value would skyrocket and a long offseason awaits for him and his agent.