Mikel Arteta has backed Ben White to replace England if Kyle Walker misses the World Cup through injury and believes he could slot comfortably into Gareth Southgate’s back three.
Walker’s groin injury leaves him struggling to prepare for Qatar 2022, where England will start against Iran on November 21 and White will be hoping for a recall if the Manchester City player is unable to make it.
A white color shone in the middle Arsenal last season but has been a revelation at right-back in their strong start this time around. He has shown great adaptability and Arteta believes he can thrive in the right-sided centre-back role occupied by Walker.
When asked if White could push for inclusion and if that position would suit him, he said: “Both. Ben would be very comfortable playing on the right side of a three, as well as in the middle, or as a full-back. If you ask me if he is ready to take this step, the answer is yes, because he is a very confident boy. He gives you absolutely everything, he’s always available and he has the guts to play under real pressure.”
White won the last of his four caps in March, starting at right-back as England beat Ivory Coast 3-0 with a largely experimental squad. He has since fallen behind Fikayo Tomori and Mark Gea in the centre-back line-up and, with Walker’s place in particular, unlikely to start ahead of John Stones this winter, even if he is called upon. But Arteta believes his form as an attacking full-back shows invaluable versatility.
“We all felt he had the qualities to do it, and probably the most important step for him was to make sure he could do it and feel comfortable in that position – and that this position could maximize his potential and give him another dimension, the player,” he said. “The fact that he can now play in different positions will make him a more complete player and I think he’s very happy with that.”
White is expected to start for Arsenal against Liverpool. His switch to the wing was partly prompted by the exceptional central defensive form of Gabriel Magallanes and William Saliba.
The latter, in particular, has been compared in favorable terms to the visitors’ Virgil van Dijk, but Arteta has dismissed any resemblance to the Dutchman or his potential partner Joel Matip. “The moment they win everything the other two have is the right moment [to compare]” he said.