After missing out on Douglas Luiz on transfer deadline day, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta could consider using Ben White in defensive midfield – a position he has played in before.
The Gunners were desperate to sign a new midfielder yesterday. Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Oleksandr Zinchenko are all injured at the moment, and Arteta’s options in the middle of the park are limited as a result.
Arsenal started with Granit Xhaka and Albert Sambi Lokonga in central midfield against Aston Villa on Wednesday. The only natural alternative on the bench was young Matt Smith, who hasn’t even made his senior debut for the club yet.
The North Londoners pushed hard to sign Luiz on transfer deadline day yesterday, but Villa didn’t budge. Arsenal couldn’t get a deal done in the end, and Arteta may have to use a surprise option in midfield until his key stars are back from their respective injuries.
Arsenal could use Ben White in midfield
White has already shown his versatility at Arsenal. After playing most of the last campaign in central defence, he has been used as a right-back this season, and he has been brilliant.
The Englishman, however, can play in midfield too.
White played four times as a defensive midfielder in the 2019/20 season at Leeds, and he was deployed in the same role on seven occasions in his final season at Brighton as well.
Earlier this year, even Arteta entertained the idea of playing him in the middle of the park. The Arsenal boss told The Metro: “It’s an option that we have. He has played there before.”
Considering that the Gunners are desperate for options in the middle of the park, Arteta could well consider pushing him into midfield, with Takehiro Tomiyasu now fit and available to start in his natural right-back position.
White, branded as a ‘fantastic’ player, has all the qualities needed to play as an emergency defensive midfielder.
The Englishman, firstly, is an excellent defender. His awareness of danger is brilliant, his positional discipline has improved, and he’s really aggressive as well. To add to that, he’s fantastic on the ball, and his range of passing is one of his underrated traits.
William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes have formed a tremendous partnership at the back since the start of the season. That means White is no longer needed in central defence, and with Tomiyasu now back at right-back too, the Englishman’s skills could easily be used in defensive midfield..
It will be interesting to see what Arteta will do in the coming weeks. Lokonga and Xhaka will be the ones starting regularly until Partey is back, but if one of the two needs a break, we won’t be surprised to see White called upon to start in the base of Arsenal’s midfield for the first time ever.