Brighton vs Arsenal: Red hot Neal Maupay to test Mikel Arteta's £75m centre back duo

Ben White struggled to make an instant impact at the Emirates but has since helped Arsenal to three successive wins in the Premier League.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 3:40 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 3:44 pm
Ben White and Gabriel look set to be the future of Arsenal's defence

The former Brighton defender will return to the Amex on Saturday for the first time since his £50m summer move.

Both Arsenal and Brighton have flourished in September, boasting unbeaten records in both the Premier League and the EFL Cup’s third round stage.

The Gunners’ followed up their lacklustre 2-0 loss to Brentford on the opening day of the season with extensive defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City.

But Arsenal have tightened defensively since facing the champions, conceding only once in their last three matches.

White, who missed the defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City, has since partnered Gabriel at the heart of defence, and the duo have established a promising partnership for Mikel Arteta so far.

The jury is still out on whether his £50m price tag was worth the money, but White has visibly improved Arsenal’s defence since his return.

In fact, many pundits questioned his aerial ability after the opening game against Brentford, criticising him for struggling to deal with Bees’ target forward Ivan Toney.

However, compared to Rob Holding – who deputised for White in his two absences – Arsenal’s No 4 seems to have improved their vulnerability in the air. Since joining the Gunners, White has won 60 per cent of his aerial duels, compared to Holding’s 27.3 per cent.

It demonstrates that, whilst he may not be blessed with a traditional centre-half build, White is still maturing and developing his game.

If he continues to improve his strength and aerial ability, White should prove the answer to Arsenal’s fragile defensive spine – and at £50m, it’s largely expected from the fans. Arguably,

White’s greatest challenge this season, having excelled in a back three for Brighton last campaign, is acclimatising to a new formation under Arteta.

Since signing Gabriel, the Gunners boss has rarely opted for a back five, switching between various two-man partnerships at centre-half.

After spending upwards of a combined £75m on this defensive partnership, White and Gabriel are likely to play alongside each other every week, barring any injuries or suspensions.

Whilst White seems a shrewd – albeit expensive – pick-up for Arsenal, Brighton have managed to cope capably without their latest Player of the Season winner.

Shane Duffy’s renaissance has helped plug the void left by White, which has been somewhat surprising, considering the pair contrast significantly in playing style.

The Republic of Ireland international has proved his worth for Brighton both defensively and in front of goal, contributing one goal and two clean sheets in his opening six matches.

Arsenal’s capture of White has helped make noteworthy improvements to Arteta’s defence, whilst Brighton are £50m better off without a sizeable sacrifice.