Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka turned a lot of heads last season and after breaking through to the first team at Selhurst Park he has been subject to a move up north to Manchester this summer.
The full-back was a regular choice for many Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers due to his low cost of £4m last campaign and he will be on many peoples watchlists for the following season – whether he is in the red and blue of Palace or the red of Manchester United.
Wan-Bissaka turned out to be much, much more than a budget defender in a popular game though. In his first full season in the top flight, he was arguably the league’s best right back, with only Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold up there with him.
His performances over the course of the season landed him the accolade of ‘Crystal Palace’s Player of the Season’, which is a phenomenal achievement for a youngster in his first senior season in a league as competitive as the English Premier League. His exploits have turned the heads of both Manchester clubs, but United are pressing on for a deal more intently than City, who are choosing to pursue Juventus’s Joao Cancelo instead.
Wan-Bissaka would bring something greatly desired by Jose Mourinho and something that Ole Gunnar Solksjaer desperately needs right now – defensive solidity and a hunger to improve. United’s right back options last season were the aging Ashely Young (33) and the recently arrived Diogo Dalot (20) and whilst the latter impressed offensively when he played, his transition from Portugal to England wasn’t the smoothest. Young meanwhile became public enemy number one for his lack of proficiency in crossing and his continued defensive lapses which increasingly frustrated the United faithful.
United conceded their highest goal tally in a top-flight season last year with some shambolic defensive performances and whilst the blame could not be laid solely on the full-backs, Wan-Bissaka offers exactly what is required to begin remedying the situation.
Firstly, with AWB having played 35 games last season fitness will not be an issue. Secondly, when you compare defensive output, the results are astonishing. Wan-Bissaka averages 0.5 more tackles per game (3.7) than Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot combined (3.2). While it is understandable that more defending may not necessarily equal better defending, AWB stands out even in tackle success rate winning 70% of his tackles, greater than Young’s 62% or Dalot’s 50%.
Even in interceptions, Wan-Bissaka’s average of 2.4 is equal to that of United’s present options put together. A similar story follows for clearances (3.7 vs 3.8), as well as for blocks (0.5 vs 0.4). Furthermore, Wan-Bissaka averages more dribbles per game than either of United’s two right backs, although that may stem simply from more space being available for the Palace man to run into because of their counter attacking approach to football.
Having said this, offensively, Wan-Bissaka struggles in comparison, especially to Diogo Dalot. One of the things which makes Dalot stand out is his crossing ability. Although a crossing accuracy of 28% isn’t jaw-dropping, it helps to put into perspective that Alexander-Arnold (though he has a vastly superior end product) averages an accuracy of 29%, just one clear of Dalot.
Dalot offers almost thrice as many key passes per game than Wan-Bissaka and has a comparable assist record (two assists, one short of AWB) despite playing only 12 games. Similarly, he has created five big chances, which competes with Wan-Bissaka’s four and Young’s six, in considerably fewer games.
The quoted price of £50m seems to be quite steep given just the solitary season of experience under the Englishman’s belt. But United know their urgency of a rebuild, coupled with the homegrown status that Wan-Bissaka brings will only add a premium to his market price.
I personally believe that he will prove to be worth the money, given that he will likely stay at the club for a good seven-eight years. Even if he should wish to move on to greener pastures thereafter, United will be able to recoup some of their investment in what promises to be a market inflated even more highly than the present one.
It would make sense for United to acquire the Palace man and play him whenever defense is the priority; in games against Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham for example. When a stubborn defence needs to be broken down, then perhaps Dalot is the man to turn to. Between them, the pair can share game time in domestic cup games. Either way, it is time for the club to move on from the ‘Young’ generation, to the younger generation as they attempt to rebuild their club.