Leeds United, Ben White and filling Marcelo Bielsa's defensive void

Leeds United loanee Ben White featured in the 5-1 victory over Tadcaster Albion.
Leeds United loanee Ben White featured in the 5-1 victory over Tadcaster Albion.
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It won’t be lost on many around these parts over the shift in the centre of Leeds United’s defence this summer.

One player was welcomed with open arms to LS11 while another was shoved unceremoniously through Elland Road’s exit door in haste.

Leeds United loanee Ben White in action at Guiseley. (Copyright: Andrew Roe)

Leeds United loanee Ben White in action at Guiseley. (Copyright: Andrew Roe)

Blurred tales of disruption and financial fair play followed Pontus Jansson as he swapped West Yorkshire for West London, but however the Swede’s departure is perceived there is no question he leaves a hole that needs filling in United’s back four.

Unanswered questions remain over Jansson’s transfer to Brentford, as does the fact over whether Leeds will look to bolster their ranks at the back with a further name.

Taking the window on face value to date, Leeds have swapped a centre-back who was named in last seasons PFA Championship Team of the Year for one who is yet to kick a ball in the division.

Though, Leeds will feel the move runs deeper than that. And you could argue it does. Ben White is an acquisition that fits the Marcelo Bielsa mould. A ball-playing centre-back who can be nurtured to fit into the Argentine’s machine.

White will also pose the argument himself that it is high time he was afforded an opportunity in the second tier after strong stints in League One and Two - a player who has taken everything in his stride thus far. And Leeds, it seems, are the club that convinced him it was Elland Road where that particular goal could be fulfilled.

“I think I’ve got it in me to do it,” White said over filling the void.

“I had a couple of clubs that wanted to take me but Leeds seemed the most interested. We had a meeting in the summer and we discussed what I was looking to do this season and it fitted with my aims. That’s why I came here.”

It was clear from an early stage that Jansson was no longer welcome at Thorp Arch. But White is a name that has been on the lips of sporting director Victor Orta for some time.

The Poole-born defender caught the Spaniard’s eye during spells with Newport County and Peterborough United, and now he’s brought him north from Brighton to continue his development in what United will be hoping can be their gain.

“It’s difficult to find a centre-back with his quality with the ball,” Orta said earlier this month.

“A professional player is always passing the challenges in his career. I think he’s ready for the challenge [of the Championship] now.

“We are really happy because if for two years you monitor a player, and then for it to happen, it shows the effective work in the scouting department.

“We are really happy because it’s a player that in the end can show in Leeds his brand of football. The most important situation is a proper fit for the style that we are playing and the manager Marcelo Bielsa.”

White has made two outings for United so far at Guiseley and Tadcaster Albion and is part of the group left behind at Thorp Arch away from the club’s pre-season tour of Australia.

Fitness work and a period of acclimatisation to daily requirements under El Loco’s methods were the reasons given for those held back, and it seems the adjustment has helped.

“They’ve been different,” White admitted of his new training regime. “It’s longer days and sleeping between sessions. It’s been very different for me. I’m learning different things everyday.

“It’s been really good though and I’m happy with how it’s going.

“Training is nothing like games so it is nice to get the matches underway. It’s all about getting as many minutes as possible ahead of the season.”

His performances haven’t gone unnoticed, albeit against inferior opposition compared to those he will face in the Championship this season.

A centre-back who was strong on the ball was promised by both club and player and it seems they’ve delivered on exactly that. A display of driving runs, crossfield balls and risk-reward football in the last line of defence has caught the eye.

White appears quiet and unassuming away from the football pitch, but there is a certain swagger to his play that has been clear for all to witness. A confidence born from a belief in his own ability.

“It’s what I do,” he continued.

“I’m quite comfortable on the ball so when I see space I like to drive into it. I’m cool and calm, I like to play out from the back and I want to try and play as many games as I can.

“With more games you are going to keep learning. I’ve now got a few under my belt so it’s time to push on and try and get up the leagues."

The objective is clear regardless of any other incomings; a spot in Bielsa's back four at Ashton Gate when August 4 rolls around.