BREAKING: Arsenal’s £50m Thomas Partey replacement receives backing for alternative midfield role
Arsenal’s injury concerns have forced a transfer review but they may already have a £50m replacement to cover for sidelined Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny
Thomas Partey is yet again out injured for Arsenal having suffered from a thigh issue in training ahead of the 2-1 win over Fulham. However, the situation has been made worse by yet another injury to the squad.
Mohamed Elneny is set to spend time on the sidelines after suffering what football.london understands to be a hamstring problem. Arsenal are now without their first and second-choice defensive midfielders and Mikel Arteta faces a decision ahead of tomorrow’s (Wednesday) game with Aston Villa.
There are existing midfield options in Albert Sambi Lokonga and Granit Xhaka but both, particularly the latter, have shown great promise and performances in the advanced left eight position. football.london understands the Belgian’s displays in the role during pre-season caught the eye of the coaching staff.
Therefore, should Arteta not want to lose Xhaka from the left eight nor use Lokonga, he could look elsewhere. The transfer market may bring the answer, but the only strong midfield link so far has been to Youri Tielemans, who again is a central midfielder as opposed to a defensive one.
However, the club could potentially have an answer internally to solve the problem. Arsenal signed Ben White from Brighton for a £50million fee last summer and the England international has proven his worth as a versatile defensive option, having played at both centre-half and exclusively this season, at right-back.
The prospect of playing White in midfield is not a farfetched idea considering his history of the position. He was used 10 times in the midfield for Brighton across 664 minutes of action according to Wyscout in 2020/21.
Additionally, he played another 425 minutes across seven games for Leeds United whilst on loan the season prior. This is, therefore, not an alien role to the now England international.
To get more details on White’s potential in midfield, football.london spoke to SussexLive’s Brighton & Hove Albion reporter Richie Mills. Richie answered a number of questions on the potential of White playing the defensive midfield role.
How did Ben White perform when tasked with playing in midfield for Brighton?
Richie said: “While Ben White was not as accomplished as Yves Bissouma when playing in a defensive midfielder role for Brighton, he was a good backup option for Graham Potter’s men. The Albion academy product played half a dozen or so games in that holding midfield role and looked very comfortable with the ball at his feet and acting as a buffer ahead of his defence.
“One game, in particular, stood out for him. White was arguably the best player on the pitch in Brighton’s 1-0 win over Leeds United at Elland Road in January 2021.
“According to Albion Analytics he was the best among his teammates for blocks (four), shot-creating actions (two), dribbled completed (2/3) and was second-best for progressive carry yards (184), pressures (19), and carried into the final third (two). While he is a defender by trade, that game, among others, showed he has many strings to his bow.”
What strengths does he have that mean he can play the role and what areas would be recognized weaknesses?
Richie said: “ His pace, energy, anticipation, and defensive nous make him a good defensive midfield option. However, like any player who is playing out of position, he is not infallible.
“Sometimes he could be drawn out of position, still can make rash challenges, and his long-range passing is not his main strength. But he did show at Brighton that he is extremely versatile. He played at centre-back, right wing-back, and in defensive midfield and did a decent job each time.”
Is it a viable option for Arsenal in the wake of injuries to Partey and Elneny over playing the young Lokonga or returning Granit Xhaka to the CDM role, despite him flourishing in the left 8 position of late?
Richie said: “I think it is certainly a viable option, particularly if Arsenal don’t seek to sign someone in the transfer market. If you need someone to intercept passes, block shots, pressure the opposition, retain possession, and provide an extra barrier to the defence, White can perform that role in a competent manner.”
It is clear to see from Richie’s answers that having seen White play in midfield at the Premier League level, his versatility can extend out of the back four positions. Further to his abilities on the field, his mental preparedness to adapt is also aligned with the potential to change position.
Development coach Carlos Cuesta was filmed speaking with White in the ‘All or Nothing’ Amazon Prime documentary where he revealed these traits. He said, “You have all the potential to be a world-class player.
“Your level of activity is top, your ability to learn is your biggest strength,’ said Cuesta. ‘When I see you defending, I think: ‘Wow, how aggressive he is, how quickly he reacts and how he is able to anticipate’.
“How many players in the world can anticipate like you? I will tell you, not many. I would say, nobody. You are special on your level of activity.”..WATCH.HIGHLIGHT.HERE
The combination of White’s history in the role, success there and the ability he has to learn and adapt stand him in good stead for a potential positional change. Should Arsenal be short, bringing Takehiro Tomiyasu back into right-back and moving White further forward is a potential option.