Arsenal have announced the signing of Ben White from Brighton & Hove Albion for a fee believed to be in the region for £50m. Arsenal had two initial bids of £40m and £45m rejected prior to their third bid being accepted. Arsenal had initially wanted to pay in instalments of £45m as a guaranteed fee and then a further £5m in incentives, but this was rejected out of hand by Brighton who wanted the full fee upfront. White has signed a five year contract with the option for a sixth to be taken up at the club’s discretion. White will wear the number 4 shirt.
After an outstanding season in the Premier League, White caught the eye of many clubs in the Premier League and Europe, with Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton and Manchester City all believed to have been keeping tabs on the Dorset youngster.
White’s career has been a true tale of triumph and is considered to be a fantastic reminder for youngsters everywhere just how important perseverance and hard work are in a career full of ups and downs.
Initially released by Southampton at the age of 16, White joined the academy of Brighton & Hove Albion, where he was subsequently loaned out three times. His loans to lower division sides Newport County and Peterborough United were a real test of character for the youngster.
Usually, loans to clubs in the lower divisions are used as a means of introducing young talent to more game time and more wild forms of football. While the Premier League may boast the likes of Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel and their tactical wizardry, the lower leagues give youngsters the chance to develop physically and to learn the basics.
At Newport County, White was extremely popular with a performance against Harry Kane in the FA Cup being noted as a particular high and manager Michael Flynn describing him as “the best loan signing the club has ever made”.
Ben was a top target for us and it’s great that we’ve completed his signing. Ben has been educated with two very good clubs, Brighton and Leeds, in recent seasons. He has benefitted well from two very good coaching set-ups and has shown with both Brighton and on loan with Leeds what a strong talent he is.Mikel Arteta, Manager
Though Tottenham pushed hard to sign White following his time at Newport, White was loaned to Peterborough where he made a further 16 appearances, as he was unable to break into the strong Brighton defence.
His following loan, to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, was what first placed him on the radar of many top clubs in Europe. His performances were deemed to be some of the best in the Leeds side that earned promotion to the Premier League, with White winning the club’s Young Player of the Season award as well as the Goal of the Month for July. Leeds subsequently made no fewer than three attempts to sign White from Brighton the following summer, but Brighton stood firm.
His first full season at Brighton was a roaring success as well, winning Brighton’s Player of the Year award and earning his first-ever England call-up, including a call-up (admittedly only in place of the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold and as a result of a larger squad size allowed) to Gareth Southgate’s England EUROs squad, though he did not appear for the team.
The signing of White may initially come as something of a shock to Arsenal fans given the team’s unusually stellar defensive record last season, however, given that Arsenal have seen Shkodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz and Kostas Mavropanos have all departed the club in the past six months, the need for a ball-playing central defender has reached crisis point and White certainly ticks the boxes.
The size of the fee involved to bring White to the club will likely raise some eyebrows. Given that this signing will likely spell the end for William Saliba’s tumultuous time with the club, £77m spent on two central defenders, only for one to never play for the club, is a hard pill for fans to swallow, especially given Saliba’s promise. However, White represents a huge upgrade on the defenders Arsenal already has and while the initial fee may be a little on the high side, he will comfortably add value to a defence that is slowly regaining it’s confidence.
Ben has been a key target this summer. He has so many qualities which make us so excited he’s joining us. Ben’s a young English player with a great future. He’s very strong defensively, good on the ball with a great passing range. We’re delighted Ben’s signed and we look forward to him growing with us.Edu, Technical Director.
White’s ability to play as a centre-back, right-back and as a central midfielder also gives Mikel Arteta lots of flexibility when it comes to his selections.
The deal represents Arsenal’s third foray into the transfer window this summer, with Nuno Tavares joining from Benfica and Albert Sambi Lokonga arriving from Anderlecht.