Arsenal announced their third signing of the window, with the signing of Ben White from Brighton.
Unlike the signings of Nuno Tavares and Sambi Lokonga, White is a signing that I expect will step right into the Arsenal first team. So let’s take a look at what Arsenal is getting.
Before we go any further there are some important things to point out. First is Ben White played several positions for Brighton and that will have an effect on his statistics. Second, the stats for center backs are less than perfect.
The job of a center-back is to stop something from happening and that doesn’t always match with event data which only looks at what did happen on the ball. A player who is in the perfect position and stops an opposing player from trying a pass into the box does exactly what they are supposed to but gets no statistical credit for that, a player who makes a mistake in positioning and makes a great late tackle gets the credit but also was the reason that happened. Having detailed event data is awesome, but it is like watching the game in pitch black with only a spotlight on the ball and that leaves important information out or only something that we can try and infer from other signals.
Stats for defenders are also more heavily dependent on the style of play and tactics for the team that they are in. With this understanding, let’s dig into how Ben White looks.
These numbers will be possession adjusted based on the number of possessions that Ben White was on the field for unless otherwise noted as per 90 minutes. The percentiles will be compared to center backs from Big 5 Leagues.
1.6 – Successful tackles per 90 possessions, 60th percentile
2.6 – Tackles attempted per 90 possessions, 83rd percentile
38% – Dribbled past percent, 6th percentile
Looking at tackles is a good example of how White playing different positions has affected his statistics. While he was center back (2302 minutes), he attempted 45 tackles and was dribbled past 17 times, that is still being dribbled past 38% of the time but much less per 90 minutes, his time playing everywhere else (892 minutes), he attempted 37 tackles and was dribbled past 16 times.
0.9 – Fouls committed per 90 possessions, 54th percentile
1.9 – Interceptions per 90 possessions, 71st percentile
0.8 – Blocked passes per 90 possessions, 89th percentile
1.8 – Clearances per 90 possessions, 1st percentile
0.7 – Blocked shots per 90 possessions, 47th percentile
6.0 – Ball recoveries per 90 possessions, 68th percentile
1.5 – Aerial Wins per 90 minutes, 30th percentile
51% – Aerial Duel win percentage, 13th percentile
I will leave it to others to give more of a scouting report on how well White defends. From here I can see that he is a busy defender but maybe needs to get a bit better at picking his spots. His job on Brighton didn’t seem to be clearing the ball, nor was he the main person to win Aerial duels in their backline.
49.4 – Passes attempted per 90, 50th percentile
40.6 – Passes completed per 90, 49th percentile
82.2 – Pass completion percentage, on 79.7 expected pass completion
103.2 – Pass efficiency (how much more or less a player completed passes than expected), 57th percentile.
6.2 – Long passes per 90, completing 2.8 per 90
22.4 – Medium passes per 90, completing 19.9 per 90
20.8 – Short passes per 90, completing 17.9 per 90
3.5 – Final third entry passes completed per 90, 73rd percentile
2.8 – Progressive passes completed per 90, 76th percentile
Looking at White’s passing you can see the potential and why Arsenal are interested. His volume is about average compared to other center backs (it will be interesting if he is given a bigger role at Arsenal) but he generally has tried harder passes than the average center back with a good success rate.
2.5 – Progressive carries per 90, 74th percentile
1.0 – Final third entry carries per 90, 95th percentile
0.7 – Successful dribbles per 90, 95th percentile with a 62% success rate
0.9 – Turnovers per 90, 14th percentile
0.3 – Fouls suffered per 90, 8th percentile
His ball carrying looks good, but he also was able to do a bunch of this as a right-back as well, which might skew things a bit. I think that this will be interesting to see how he can use this skill at Arsenal.
Ben White is highly rated but I think still a bit of a rough-cut stone where he has areas where he can polish things up a bit more.
His age and contract (5 years plus an option, reportedly) should make this something where he could grow into a mainstay for Arsenal and make the big transfer fee less important as it is amortized over a pretty long time frame.
One of the things that I do like is that he has played a lot and that while he has room for improvement he doesn’t seem to have huge errors in him like you would expect from a young player.
I think that he also has the potential to help Arsenal’s ball progression with his passing and ball carrying. I think that with his athleticism he will also give more freedom to either the right-sided midfielder or right back to go forward and give more support for the attack. So he may not directly contribute to attack, but he may give freedom for others to help improve what I believe is the area Arsenal needs the most growth this season.
Sources: Opta and StatsBomb via FBref