Arsenal star Ben White has managed to earn a call-up to the England squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, completing a huge turnaround in just over one-year
Gareth Southgate on Ben White’s inclusion in his England squad
Arsenal star Ben White was one of a trio of players to make the England squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup from the red half of north London on Thursday. The defender joins Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale as part of a Three Lions camp that are eyeing a second major tournament triumph for their nation.
For White in particular, it shows a huge transformation as a player since he joined from Brighton for £50million back in the summer of 2021. In just over one-year under Mikel Arteta, the 25-year-old has gone from being a centre-back to playing at right-back as a key outlet for the side.
“I would hope he’s very excited about being involved,” England manager Gareth Southgate told the press when asked if he’s spoken to White ahead of his selection. It completes a change for the defender that was lightyears away from the criticism he received on debut for the Gunners.
Former Premier League defenders and Sky Sports pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher questioned the ability of White when he made his debut in a disappointing 2-0 loss to Brentford last season. While plenty has changed since, the pair may well have been proven wrong.
“I said before the game that nobody is going to remember at the end of the season how many good passes Ben White has made,” Neville claimed. “And you know when we say he’s good on the ball, that was something we used to say 15 years ago when a centre-back was good on the ball.
“I actually think most centre-backs now, in top six clubs, are competent on the ball. They get it out their feet, play good passes, they can play diagonal switches. Harry Maguire is good on the ball, John Stones is good on the ball, Virgil van Dijk is good on the ball. They’re all good on the ball. Thiago Silva at Chelsea is good on the ball.
“So we’ve got to stop saying he’s good on the ball because every centre-back in the top-six is. The difference will be whether he defend his goal. Can he make a difference to this Arsenal team?”
Carragher added that he had doubts over his ability: “I spoke to Ben White before the game and I mentioned about how many opportunities he’ll get to step in with the ball. Ben White isn’t going to get as many opportunities to step in with the ball, to actually show the quality that we all associate with him.
“You want to see him do well, it’s a big price tag, but I must say that as soon as Arsenal bought him – and he was linked with Liverpool for 12-18 months – my fear was I wouldn’t want him to come to Liverpool because he’s not tall enough, not good enough in the air.”
While it was only one performance, so much has changed since to where White is arguably one of the most influential players in the side and could be the same in the England setup. It may have been that criticism that led to his improvement too, having acknowledged the pundits singling him out on Sky Sports.
“I think it was the first time I’ve actually been singled out,” the defender said. “It’s never a nice feeling but it just gives me more incentive to go out there and do well.”
White will now be hoping he can give plenty on the international stage, given just what he has managed to achieve at club level.