Ben White exits World Cup: can Southgate replace former Leeds United and Arsenal player in England squad?
Since his loan stay at Elland Road ended, Arsenal defender Ben White has gone from strength to strength. The centre-back joined the Whites in 2019 and had a fantastic season, winning the Leeds Young Player of the Season award and being chosen to the PFA Team of the Year as he helped the team gain promotion to the Premier League.
Following his return to Brighton, White quickly established himself as a fan favourite, appearing in 36 Premier League games before garnering the attention of Arsenal. The £50 million the Gunners spent for him last summer was probably more than Leeds had been looking to spend for him the year before, but he is clearly starting to pay off his astronomical price tag this season.
White has moved to right-back for Arsenal and has emerged as one of their greatest performers in recent months, earning himself a call-up to the World Cup in Qatar. While many expected White to join John Stones in defence, Harry Maguire has improved his form for the Three Lions, and White did not play in the tournament.
While the 25-year-old was selected to the bench for their first two games, supporters were left wondering why he wasn’t included in the team for their victory against Wales. White has already returned home from the World Cup for ‘personal reasons’ and will not be returning – but can Gareth Southgate replace him?
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England released a statement yesterday confirming White’s departure from the squad. It read: “Ben White has left England’s training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons. The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the remainder of the tournament. We ask that the player’s privacy is respected at this moment in time.”
White’s withdrawal from the competition has prompted speculation about whether the Three Lions can replace him, and the short answer is no.
England will have to finish the World Cup with a 25-man team since it is now too late to bring in another defender, with the deadline having passed 24 hours before each country’s opening encounter.
This means England will be unable to make any changes to their squad beginning on Sunday, November 20 – the day before their first match against Iran.
Gareth Southgate will now shift his attention to the round of 16 match against Senegal this Saturday, with one fewer defender to select from.
However, this is still more than usual, with national teams limited to 23 players during the 2018 World Cup.