Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Becoming the right back we need?

When we signed Aaron Wan-Bissaka in July of 2019, we all knew we were getting a fantastic defensive right back, one of the best in the world at stopping the opposition. Despite this, there were many questions being asked of his offensive output, last season in 35 league appearances for Crystal Palace, he accumulated 3 assists with 14 key passes over the entirety of the season. It was not known as one of his strong points, but to many United fans, this didn’t matter; they were just elated to finally have a top, young right back for the foreseeable future.

Tackle Percentage80.4%
Crosses per Game0.3
Stats for all competitions (except Crosses per Game which are PL only) as of season suspension.

Over the course of the season, our number 29 has more often than not performed very well and consistently put in solid performances. His tracking back and inch perfect slide tackles have been incredibly valuable to the side. His tackling percentage of 80.4% is excellent, especially considering he is such a high volume tackler, attempting 4.22 per 90 minutes this season (his highest per 90 attempts of his career). When taking into account tackling accuracy and tackling volume, Wan-Bissaka ranks as the best tackling player in Europe’s top 5 footballing leagues! He is excellent defensively, and a simple eye test tells us that much. We’ve seen how he has dominated the duel against City’s world class winger Raheem Sterling in their match ups this season. How is he going forward though? Has he improved since he joined United?

Wan-Bissaka tackling City’s Raheem Sterling.

Last season at Crystal Palace, Aaron averaged 1.76 crosses per 90 minutes of football, whereas this season this has increased to 2.71, an increase of very nearly 1 cross per game. On the surface, this gives the impression he has at least partly improved upon his attacking game. However, looking at just crossing statistics doesn’t tell us the full story. This season, United have often set up with an inside forward on the right wing, a player who will spend much of the game cutting inside and utilising the centre of the field, meaning Wan-Bissaka has had to often patrol that flank on his own. This has brought about its own difficulties. Often, when pushing forward, he would become quite isolated on the ball as he wouldn’t have many passing options to play off of. Often, this leads to him either losing the ball, or turning around to pass backwards. Some of the fan base grew impatient with watching the right back struggle going forwards, even though it wasn’t strictly his fault with the lack of support from the right winger being a major factor in his struggles. This is one of the reasons that it has been widely accepted that we needed to purchase a right winger this season, hence the strong Sancho links (click here to read how he would fit in our side).

According the The Athletic, Wan-Bissaka has been partaking in individual attacking drills recently, where Carrick and McKenna have been putting him up against Fosu-Mensah and Teden Mengi with the objective of beating his man. This has been fruitful, as since we started 2020, Wan-Bissaka has created 11 clear cut chances (11 clear cut chances in 2 months, where he created 9 in the nearly 4 months prior to this). To put this figure into perspective, creative Liverpool full back Alexander-Arnold has created 10 clear chances in that same period of time. We saw his new attacking intent many times against Manchester City in our last league fixture before the league was suspended. We saw him slalom between defenders to create crossing opportunities, as he completed 4 dribbles against them; the second most made on the field only to Joao Cancelo! When you compare this season to last, he has almost doubled his key passes per 90 from 0.36 to 0.71, very encouraging.

“It’s just repetition, they set up a zone and he’ll get used to receiving the ball and seeing the picture that appears in front of him. He is encouraged to go forward, which is the United philosophy. They’ve been doing the same with Brandon Williams as well. At the moment it’s about getting into the space and getting the ball delivered.It will take a while to come out properly. You can’t set something up on a training ground, do it for two hours, and think it’s going to happen in the next match. It’s two, three months of work.”

A source close to the player – The Athletic UK

It was only a few weeks ago, when playing against Chelsea where we saw more glimpses of this when he played a sumptuous cross in the box for Anthony Martial to meet for our first goal that night. By no means is he at his full capacity yet going forward, there is still room for improvement for the young full back. Despite this though, we have seen a definite improvement even in this season alone, partly due to his own increase in confidence, and some will be in part down to the coaching teams insistence on placing him on the individual drills. Let’s hope this can continue into the rest of this season if it continues, and if not, then into the 2020/21 season!

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