Liverpool scouts who have been tracking Ben White have delivered a largely glowing report on the 22-year-old, although they identified one significant area of concern in his game.
As reported by Football Insider, Anfield scouts have been raving about the defender, who is on loan at Leeds from Brighton this season and is said to have scored very highly on Liverpool’s tracking tools to analyse how well he would fit into Jurgen Klopp’s style of play.
However, the Reds’ scouts have noted concerns about the 6ft centre-back‘s aerial ability and it remains to be seen whether that will deter the Premier League leaders from putting in a transfer bid for him in the summer, with Liverpool having tracked him since October (as per Football Insider).
How does Ben White compare to Liverpool’s current centre-backs?
The reported reservations about White’s aerial game are understandable to an extent. He has won an average of 2.8 aerial duels per game this season, which is a meagre amount when compared to three of the centre-backs currently at Klopp’s disposal. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren have both averaged 5.1 successful headers per game in the Premier League, nearly twice the rate of the Leeds defender, while Virgil van Dijk’s aerial duel match average is 4.8.
However, White at least has a higher aerial duels average than Joe Gomez, who lags behind his central defensive team-mates with only 2.4 successful headers per game. Also, at 1.82m, he is notably shorter than Liverpool’s four senior centre-backs – according to WhoScored, Matip is the tallest at 1.95m, two centimetres more than Van Dijk, with Gomez and Lovren both standing at 1.88m. Therefore, it may not seem hugely surprising that the Leeds youngster isn’t quite as dominant in the air as the likes of Matip or Van Dijk.
What the 22-year-old lacks in aerial dominance, though, he makes up for with his ability to bring the ball out from the back. He averages 0.6 successful dribbles per game, which is double the match average of Matip and Gomez and compares very favourably to the 0.1 match average of Van Dijk and Lovren (as per WhoScored). White has an 85.3% passing success rate this season, a middle of the road figure in comparison to Liverpool’s centre-backs. Van Dijk (89.2%) and Gomez (88.4%) are more composed in possession but Lovren (83.4%) and Matip (83.1%) do not retain the ball as regularly.
It is fair to maintain that White lacks the aerial prowess of most of Liverpool’s centre-backs but this is a trait which the Reds already have in abundance in their defence, so his comparative weakness in this regard should not be a major deterrent. Indeed, his superior aptitude for carrying the ball out from defence compared to Klopp’s current centre-backs would enable him to improve Liverpool in that respect and would nicely complement the greater aerial ability of the likes of Matip and Van Dijk.
Also, with The Athletic reporter James Pearce claiming on Twitter (@JamesPearceLFC, via @AnfieldEdition) that the Reds would be open to selling Lovren for £15m this summer, Liverpool’s options in that central defensive role could be reduced. If the Reds are seriously considering a summer move for White, they ought to look more at the traits he could add to their defence rather than be put off simply because he isn’t aerially outstanding.
Liverpool fans, are you concerned by White’s inferior aerial ability to the Reds’ current centre-backs or do you think his ball-playing attributes make up for it? Would you like to see him at Anfield next season? Comment below with your views!