Benjamin White is one of three Arsenal players in the senior England squad for the upcoming friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast at Wembley Stadium. Although, unlike Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, his role could be slightly different from club duty.
It’s the first time the 24-year-old has been called up by Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate since joining the Gunners for £50million in last summer’s transfer window and marks his return to the setup after being part of the squad at the European Championships. Having forged a strong central defensive partnership alongside Gabriel Magalhaes to provide a solid platform for Arsenal‘s top-four challenge, White being named in the England squad again is the reward Mikel Arteta was calling for following an impressive run of form.
“I don’t know,” the Spaniard replied when asked if White is currently England’s best centre-back. “We are really happy with his performances, how he has adapted, what he brings to the team certainly. Hopefully he can get rewarded, because the way that he trains, he looks at himself and the performances that he’s having. He is certainly creating that attention, from a lot of people.”
But whilst White has impressed for Arsenal in a back four this season, he may not get the opportunity to repeat the trick for England during the current international break as he is one of five central defenders in the squad alongside Marc Guehi, Conor Coady, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings and John Stones.
Interestingly, following the announcement of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James, in particular, both withdrawing from the squad through injury, Southgate’s decision to call up Tyrick Mitchell and Kyle Walker-Peters may have an impact on White’s role for the two games.
With Mitchell likely to provide competition to Luke Shaw at left-back, it leaves Walker-Peters as the only natural right-back in the squad because of Alexander-Arnold and James pulling out. As a result, White can solve any selection dilemmas if Southgate goes with a back four against Switzerland and Ivory Coast.
Despite operating mostly at centre-back for Arsenal, White has played two games at right-back this season when first-choice Takehiro Tomiyasu and back-up option Cedric Soares were unavailable for selection against Norwich City over the festive period and Burnley just before the mid-season break. So as the centre-back in the current England squad with the most experience operating at right-back, White could be in line for a new role with the Three Lions as his two previous caps have come in defence.
Alternatively, Southgate could opt to stick with a back three formation. Throughout England’s World Cup qualification campaign and at the Euros he did switch between a back four and a back three, going with the latter in the last international window that yielded 15 goals in wins over Albania and San Marino. In this system, White would slot in as the right-sided centre-back – perhaps alongside Stones and Maguire – which is a role he is more than familiar with from his time at Brighton and on the odd occasion for Arsenal when Arteta looks to see out a result.