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Arsenal Season Recap: Ben White

Mikel Arteta’s big-ticket signing of the summer had a strong first season in North London.

Arsenal Pre-Season Training Camp Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal signed Ben White in late July from Brighton & Hove Albion for £50M. When you bring in a guy for that kind of money, it is to be a starter, and he quickly became one of the first names on the teamsheet in North London. Upon joining the squad, he signed a new, five-year contract, so he’ll be one of Arsenal’s centerbacks for a while. And that’s a good thing!

I’d also note that he’s one of the few players in the Premier League that you don’t call by just his last name. He’s not “White,” he’s “Ben White.”

Season Summary: Ben White’s season got off to a rocky start. He was thrust into action in the opener despite joining the club less than two weeks prior. He then tested positive for COVID and missed the next two matches. But once healthy and paired with Gabriel Magalhaes, who had started the season late because of international duty over the summer, White settled in and flourished. He made 32 starts for the Gunners in the Premier League, missing some time down the stretch because of a hamstring problem that also forced him to withdraw from the postseason England roster. He also made one start a right back and did pretty well.

White and Gabriel formed a solid partnership. I was pleasantly surprised by White’s defensive acumen, and I think he improved his play over the course of the season. His strong on the ball, both passing and dribbling, which is why Mikel Arteta wanted him in the first place, and he’s better in the air than he got credit for coming in.

Season Grade: A-

I think Ben White had a great season. He was solid, reliable, and consistent, all the things you want from a starting centerback. If I had to come up with one critique, it would be his game-reading. I think he isn’t always in the right / best position, especially in terms of identifying and tracking runners. But his play this season was good enough to earn him multiple call-ins to the England national team, so who am I to judge.

‘22-’23 Outlook: White will begin the season as the first choice right center back. Whether he maintains that role is another question. He’ll be pushed for playing time by William Saliba. Competition for places is good. It keeps players sharp and on their toes. How the season shakes out is anybody’s guess. The good news is that there should be enough matches to go around, and with Saliba in the rotation, the squad has more depth at centerback to weather injuries.