Leeds United: Ben White's England prospects; unlocking Huddersfield Town and assessing the automatic promotion race - David Prutton
BEN WHITE is going to play as a central defensive midfielder in today’s Championship clash at Huddersfield Town with Kalvin Phillips suspended and that’s a very specialist role.
Ben has been very good since he has come to Leeds and obviously logistically playing as a defensive centre midfielder is not too far away from where he has been playing as a centre back.
But with a centre back the majority of the game is in front of you if you are a good centre half, whereas playing as a holding midfielder needs a different type of awareness.
But from what I have seen so far, Ben’s ability on the ball and ability to sniff out danger and to pre-empt where he needs to be means that fitting into the different role should be relatively straightforward because of the attributes he has as a technical footballer. I’m looking forward to seeing him play there.
I have seen talk of Ben having been the best defender in the Championship so far and that he should get an England call and there is potential for that.
You look at what he could possibly do and you couldn’t rule that out at all.
But it’s a huge step up from showing what you can do in and around the Football League to actually doing it on a regular basis in the Premier League, even more so now.
Technically, you are looking at a player who has got a good touch, good awareness and a good range of passing and that ticks a lot of boxes, as does the fact he is athletic and he can get himself out of the odd modicum of trouble that he manages to get himself in to now and again.
That all shows that he is maturing in his game but also that he has enough of the answers to the problems that a football match can throw up at you.
There have been some good strikers that Ben has played against and he has been in a position where he has shown how good he actually is.
It’s nice to sit and ponder and dissect whether he would become an England international defender and that’s purely at the feet of Ben and how he approaches his career because he’s got the attributes to do that.
After that, it’s about realising your potential, being hard-working and determined enough to realise that and he does strike me as that type of player.
He will obviously be missed in defence against Huddersfield as he has been very good and the partnership he has formed with Liam Cooper at centre back has been fantastic.
But Leeds will have a layer of protection ten or 15 yards up the pitch which is very, very good and, maybe coming from the position that he is and knowing what he does and doesn’t like as a centre half, means that he will nip that in the bud or cut it out at source so that the people behind him don’t have to deal with that.
Last weekend’s win at Middlesbrough made it five wins in succession for Leeds and it means that West Brom, Fulham and Leeds collectively have now won their last 14 games in a row.
They are the three names that you are drawn to in the automatic promotion race but Nottingham Forest, Preston North End and Bristol City are not far behind at all.
I think the assumption and the expectation rests solely on West Brom, Leeds and Fulham and we have seen Leeds dominate portions of games, but not whole games.
We have seen Fulham’s emphasis on possession which hasn’t always led to wins but has in recent weeks as because they have become a more clinical team.
With Leeds, last season we saw them blowing teams away and this season they have found it a little bit less straightforward and West Brom have been allowing the opposition a couple of goals or at least one-goal head starts.
All this is evolving at the same time and it’s far too early to talk about a breakaway three.
You can look at West Brom being seven points away from third and that’s a nice little cushion for them as is Leeds being five ahead.
But with one bad week in the Championship that advantage can completely evaporate.
Huddersfield Town are next in line and new Town boss Danny Cowley made the defence more resolute as soon as he came in, which he sorely needed to do.
They have now had no wins in four but they were very poor at the start of the season and Danny has made them competitive in the Championship.
Before then they were really struggling and he has done what you need to do when a team is struggling for confidence.
They have a way of playing that suits, he has got a structure that suits them and an emphasis on a structure of play that allows them to combat the different problems a game throws up.
I have got a lot of time for Danny and his brother - they are very good young coaches and I think it will be a tough test.
Karlan Grant has shown that he can score goals at several different levels but what always stands out with him is that if the supply line is cut off and he’s not allowed to get on the half turn and run at the defence then sometimes Huddersfield struggle a little bit offensively.
That is something that Leeds perhaps need to keep an eye on.
But such is the all-encompassing way that Leeds play when they are at their best, they will give Huddersfield due respect and take due preparation but it’s Huddersfield who do really need to be wary of what Leeds bring.