Ben White exits World Cup - can England replace former Leeds United and Arsenal player in squad?
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Former Leeds United defender Ben White has gone from strength to strength since his loan spell at Elland Road ended. The centre-back joined the Whites in 2019 and enjoyed a sensational season with the club, winning the Leeds Young Player of the Season award whilst also being named in the PFA Team of the Year as he helped win promotion to the Premier League.
Following his return to Brighton & Hove Albion, White became a firm favourite and made 36 appearances in the Premier League before catching the eye of Arsenal. The £50 million the Gunners paid for him last summer was certainly more than Leeds had looked to snap him up for the year before, however he is certainly beginning to pay off his staggering price-tag this season.
White has taken up a new position at right-back for Arsenal and has become one of their best players in recent months, earning himself a call-up to the highly anticipated World Cup in Qatar. While many had hoped the defender would partner John Stones in defence, Harry Maguire has turned his form around for the Three Lions and White failed to make an appearance in the tournament.
While the 25-year-old was named on the bench for their opening two fixtures, fans were wondering why he hadn’t made the squad for their win over Wales. Since then it had been confirmed that White had returned home from the World Cup for ‘personal reasons’ and won’t be returning - but can Gareth Southgate replace him?
Can England replace Ben White in their World Cup squad?
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 exit from the tournament has led to questions raised as to whether the Three Lions can bring in a replacement for him and the short answer is no. England will have to see out the remainder of their World Cup campaign with a 25-man squad as it is now too late to bring in another defender, with the deadline passing 24 hours before each country’s first match. This means England couldn’t make any changes to their squad from Sunday November 20 - the day before their opening clash with Iran.
Gareth Southgate will now turn his focus to the round of 16 fixture with Senegal this weekend and will have one less defender to choose from. However, this is still more than usual, with national teams limited to 23 players during the 2018 World Cup.