Comparing William Saliba and Ben White
The Athletic claimed that Arsenal are preparing a “concrete offer” for Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White.
Some supporters were apprehensive about the news, as they feared that might be the final nail on the coffin for William Saliba’s career at Arsenal. However, we did a piece in which we mentioned a lot of rational reasons as to why signing Ben White would be a good deal for all parties, including Saliba.
For this article, we compare the statistical numbers of both players. To look from a high-vantage point, White and Saliba can complement each other, as the Frenchman has been frequently played as a left centerback in France.
*we have looked at the statistics per 90 minutes because both have not played equal amount of games.
When it comes to who is more involved in a team’s play, Arsenal’s William Saliba is clearly ahead of White. The young Frenchman completed 66.55 passes per 90 minutes, with a Pass Completion rate of an impressive 92.6%.
While the Brighton man averaged 41.46 passes in match with a Pass Completion rate of 83.2%.
The 20-year-old centerback also completed 18.25 Short Passes, 35.40 Medium Passes and 12.65 Long Passes, which were one of the best numbers in the French league last season. His English counterpart was again trailing, with 13.74 Short Passes, 20.56 Medium Passes and 6.80 Long Passes.
But how many of those passes actually had a value in the final third? Saliba’s Key Passes/Passes into Final Third/Passes into Penalty Area metric was 0.10/4.55/0.10. His Key Passes and Passes into the Penalty Area figure was extremely poor, when compared to other centerbacks in the Ligue 1.
This is where Ben White was comparatively better than the former St. Etienne man. The 23-year-old figure was 0.23/3.13/0.56. His number of Passes into the Penalty Area placed him alongside one of the best centerbacks in the Premier League.
Maybe Mikel Arteta wants his centerbacks to have a decent contribution at the other end of the pitch, and that’s why he longs for White at the Emirates Stadium.
However, William Saliba showed his quality again when it came to passing when pressured. The French youth International averaged a figure of 7.20 per 90 minutes. Saliba has clearly shown maturity and calmness beyond his years. When you consider that the 2020/21 campaign was just his third breakthrough campaign in men’s football, the feat is even more admirable.
The young defender also made 2.70 Switches per 90, which placed him in the top 10 percentile of defenders in France. While Ben White had underwhelming numbers yet again when compared to the Arsenal man. His figures of Passes under Pressure and Switches were at a lowly 4.43 and 1.21. According to Premier League standards, the numbers were below average.
Goal and Shot Creation
Ben White’s contribution at the other end of the pitch is what makes him an attractive player to have in one’s team. The England international’s number of Shot-Creating Actions/Goal-Creating Action/Defensive Actions that lead to a Shot Attempt were pretty good at 0.73/0.08/0.06.
Saliba was clearly way behind at 0.20/0.00/0.00. However, that may be due to how Brighton play under Graham Potter. The English coach has a default setup of 3-4-3, with White being deployed as a right centerback. With three defenders and a defensive midfielder, White had license to be more adventurous in his runs.
In a 4-2-3-1, which Arteta used occasionally last season, or a 4-3-3, where he wants his future team to play, that might not be possible. But still it is a quality which cannot be replicated by every centerback.
If Arsenal sign White, they can get a defender who has qualities of a good midfielder. Two players merged into one is the analogy we can come up with.
When it comes to ‘pure defending’ Saliba is still better than White. But the former Leeds’ man game is more rounded. The Brighton defender made 1.58 Tackles, 4.01 Successful Pressures (possession gained through pressure) and made 1.95 Blocks, which were excellent numbers last season.
Although Saliba (1.70) made more Interceptions than his counterpart (1.27) his figures of Tackles/Successful Pressures/Blocks stood at a lowly 0.60/2.20/1.40 per 90 minutes.
There is certainly room for improvement in the Frenchman’s game given his age. So, it should not be of a great worry.
Regardless of their inefficiencies, there is no doubt that both are extremely talented footballers. The return of William Saliba and the acquisition of Ben White appears exciting, and the duo certainly have the potential to change Arsenal’s current economy status into first-class.
If Arsenal are willing to pay in the 40-50m range for White, it certainly will mean that the transfer bag for this summer is heavy. The Gunners can even sweeten the deal by offering Eddie Nketiah or even Rob Holding, who can be a direct replacement for White at the Amex Stadium next season.
Whatever happens, at the end of the transfer window the London side can have three Brighton players in their squad in the form of Ben White, Yves Bissouma and Maty Ryan.
It is clear that many supporters won’t have any problems with their arrivals next season. And even if they don’t end up joining the North London outfit, there will be alternatives who would equally have the new toy luster.
What lies ahead is an exciting summer! Or at least that would be what the fans will be hoping for.