Ben White and William Saliba prepare for World Cup face-off to offer Arsenal new insight
Ben White and William Saliba have been two of the standout players for Arsenal this season. In a campaign where there have been very few, if any, disappointments, being considered two of the best means you are worthy of the highest praise possible.
Saliba will certainly be one of Arsenal’s World Cup participants whilst White has a great chance of also being called up thanks to his own performances and the injuries to both Reece James and Kyle Walker. In short, White should be on the plane regardless of injuries for both his ability to play at centre-half better than the established figures of Harry Maguire and Eric Dier and his versatility at right-back.
However, should both Saliba and White go, it could be the first time we see them play in the same role allowing for an aligned comparison. The most likely scenario is for both to play in the right centre-back role in a defensive three.
The pair have operated at club level at previous clubs in this position and it has what has contributed significantly to their confidence when in possession. Saliba and White are considered two of the best on-the-ball central defenders and it has allowed the England international in particular to transition to right-back so competently and seamlessly.
GFFN reported that William Saliba is expected to start alongside Raphael Varane of Manchester United and Monaco defender Benoît Badiashile. The expectation is that Didier Deschamps will play a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Meanwhile, Gareth Southgate has experimented with a number of systems in the lead-up to the tournament. England were relegated from their Nations League group after failing to win a single game playing four matches with a back three and two with a back four.
The reason why a potential comparison of the pair’s performances is important is due to the potential rotation that Arsenal could benefit from the pair in this role should Mikel Arteta ever decide to shift the system. Coaches do change systems sometimes and do it successfully so this shouldn’t be a surprise, Arteta began life at Arsenal by addressing issues in the back line by switching to a back three.
Secondly, with Saliba proving to be potentially the world’s in-form centre-half, no exaggeration, it has been tricky to see how White stacks up with him playing a different role. What is great is that Arsenal have both, and we can enjoy that.
Arteta’s squad continues to miss a number of things, the depth being key. However, the offensive senior right-back option, not including Cedric Soares for reasons that are related to competitive elite-level quality.
White offers the Gunners balance, especially with Oleksandr Zinchenko operating on the left. However, an offensive option could provide Arteta with greater changeability of his squad in different moments.
It would also see White potentially see less time and have to compete with Saliba in the back two. Unless of course, they could play together in the centre at Gabriel Magalhaes’ expense.
The World Cup has benefits for Arsenal that might not be initially obvious. Assessing how White and Saliba compare and perform is certainly one of those.
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