The saga surrounding the long-awaited arrival of Ben White appears to be coming to a close. The defender is set to undergo his medical with Arsenal ahead of the proposed transfer from Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday, according to multiple sources.
Released by Southampton in 2014, the 23-year-old thoroughly paid his dues over the following years. He joined Brighton’s Under-18 side and plied his trade on loans for a while, playing for Newport County and Peterborough. He finally broke through by playing a big part in Leeds United’s promotion-winning season in 2019-20, at the end of which the interest in his services went notably up. Leeds made a strong attempt to keep him on a permanent basis, but Brighton rejected their advances.
Arsenal’s interest broke into the public domain towards the end of 2020-21, with relevant sources claiming Arteta was about to perform a serious reconstruction of his squad and add a centre-back capable of playing out from the back and instigating attacks to his ranks. White, who made 36 Premier League appearances for the Seagulls last season, certainly fits that description.
The talks between the two clubs last for some time. Arsenal reportedly saw two bids for White’s services rejected, the first amounting to £40 million, followed by another one worth £47m. In the end, there was nothing left for the Gunners but to meet Brighton’s initial demand of £50m. Brighton also insisted that a sell-on clause is inserted in the agreement, meaning that they would be due a certain amount more if Arsenal decide to sell White in the near future.
White’s quality in his primary role, as well the versatility represented by his ability to play as a wing-back or even a defensive midfielder, was apparently the reason why Gareth Southgate included him in the England squad for Euro 2020, even though he never played a single minute at the tournament.