Wednesday, July 5, 2023

WHITE REPLACEMENT: Arsenal's Benjamin Henrichs transfer interest justified amid serious competition for Ben White

Arsenal have been linked with a move for RB Leipzig defender Benjamin Henrichs. The club have already moved to reinforce their defensive options for an agreement for Ajax’s Jurrien Timber with the final details of the move being sorted before an announcement.

The reported link to Henrichs is therefore an interesting one with Timber certainly capable of operating as a right back if need be. The Dutch international has however had his struggles in the role and instead might be solely considered as competition and cover for William Saliba.

What Henrichs would offer is something different. Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Timber are certainly more so the centre-halves operating in the full-back area and subsequently have stronger defensive traits although White in particular has improved in the final third drastically.

Henrichs has operated as a right-back, left-back, central midfielder and wing-back for Leipzig. Notably, this demonstrates his comfortability in the final third and the metrics support this.

According to FBRef, he is in the 89th percentile for shots per 90, 77th percentile for touches in the opposition penalty area per 90 and 81st percentile for expected assists per 90. Yet, defensively he is still very highly regarded too with 92nd percentile for tackles per 90, 98th for blocks, 84th for interceptions and 84th for aerial duels won per 90.

When compared to some of the Arsenal-related players, he again impresses. Tackles won per 90, Henrichs (1.89) bests Ben White (0.91) Joao Cancelo (1.75) and Ivan Fresneda (1.75). The theme continues for interceptions with the German’s 1.44 per 90 beating White (0.65) Fresneda (0.77) and Cancelo (1.34) again.

Aerially he offers protection as mentioned and his 61.1% duel success rate is better than both White (44.6%) and Fresneda (30.8%). Recoveries per 90 for Henrichs (6.95) again beat Cancelo (6.46) White (4.57) and Fresneda (5.31).

On the ball though he does beat the Portuguese international in successful take-ons (52.6% > 51.2%) as well as Fresneda (35.7%) and White (27.6%). He beats White again in progressive carries per 90 (1.98 > 1.89) and carries into the final third per 90 (1.48 > 1.36).

However, it is important to conclude with context. Ben White is of course participating in what most would agree is a more competitive league in England than the Bundesliga, playing a position that he’s only transitioned to this very season – and Arsenal last season were a different proposition to Leipzig.

Henrichs has played on the right for more than 70% of his 127 games in the Bundesliga. Despite this, however, Henrichs is an impressive option statistically and it is certainly apparent why Arsenal are so very interested in him.

Securing a backup was never the plan for Arsenal; signing competitive quality was. Based on what Henrichs has produced, a move for the German international would certainly fall in this bracket.

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