Brighton vs Arsenal: Why Graham Potter's team have thrived without £50m Ben White
It’s quite something to think that Albion lost one of their best players last summer but somehow look all the better for it.
Many fans spent last campaign enjoying the ultra-smooth performances of their defender Ben White but also dreading the fact that he would likely leave.
Well, he did indeed depart and Brighton banked a very welcome £50 million from Arsenal for a player they picked up for free and developed superbly through their academy after his release from Southampton.
White, 24, will almost certainly go on to have a fine career with Arsenal and England. It was the perfect move for all concerned as White will be a regular starter at a top six club – something that may not have happened had he opted for Man United, Man City or a Liverpool.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was desperate to land White and – if he gets the time – is keen to build a team around the bright young talents of Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel and of course White.
It was a tricky start for White in North London and the critics were out quickly for the former Albion man after Arsenal’s stuttering start to the campaign. But White’s display against Harry Kane and Tottenham last week offered a promising glimpse into the future at the Emirates and the defender will play a huge in role in that.
Meanwhile, Brighton without White are surprisingly enjoying their best ever start to a Premier League campaign and are joint-second with 13 points from their first six.
“Losing a player is not something you should fear and sometimes it can be beneficial to the team as a whole,” said Graham Potter. He was speaking about Yves Bissouma but the same can be applied to White’s situation and to a certain extent Jack Grealish at Villa.
Both teams have coped well with losing their star men and while Villa quickly re-invested their Grealish money by bringing in the likes of Danny Ings, Emiliano Buendía and Leon Bailey Albion took a more cautious approach.
Last season White operated mainly on the right of a defensive three and with Shane Duffy returning from loan and the ever-reliable Joel Veltman also available, Potter felt he was well covered.
Duffy so far has exceeded expectations and Tariq Lamptey’s return from injury will give the head coach further options on the right. It’s quite mad to say but Albion have not yet really missed a player who, during his one season in the first team, was probably the most technically gifted defender ever to pull on an Albion shirt.
The club could and probably should have used some of that White money to fund a new striker but the record transfer fee received leaves chairman Tony Bloom and the club in a good financial position to make that move in January.
In the meantime White will return to the Amex this Saturday with his new club and he will almost certainly receive a warm welcome from Albion supporters.
Arsenal arrive on the back of three straight victories, having recovered from the “crisis” of losing their first three. Arteta’s team, who comprehensively outplayed Tottenham last week, are 10th in the table and will look to continue their run against Potter’s team who have won four, drawn once and lost once.
Strangely enough Albion have reached their lofty position without performing at their best. Potter’s team have been resilient and small margins have gone in their favour but the head coach will want to see an improvement in possession and passing against an Arsenal team that battered them 3-0 on the final day of last season.
Having Yves Bissouma back would certainly help. The Mali international missed the Palace draw with a knee problem and will assessed. Danny Welbeck’s hamstring remains a concern and is a doubt to face his former club.
Neal Maupay, so often a nuisance to Arsenal’s defence, will hope to add to his tally having netted his fourth of the season at Palace.