What are Manchester United getting in Aaron Wan-Bissaka?

Nick Lynch | July 5th, 2019

On Saturday, English Premier League side Manchester United completed the signing of right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace.

The signing cost the Red Devils £50 million which is a record transfer fee for a specialist fullback. In addition to this, he signed a new five-year deal that will keep him at Old Trafford for £80,000 per week. Some of United’s fans are still debating if a defender with one good season under his belt was worth the price tag.  What’s not up for debate is the fact that Manchester United’s defense was absolutely abysmal last season.  Palace knowing they needed to get better at the back combined with the fact that they had no real need to sell the player meant United were always going to be taken for a ride on this deal.  Will it be worth it?  Of course, it’s too early to tell, but let’s have a look at what “AWB” brings to the table.

As a defender, you have to start with his contributions on that side of the ball.  His defensive stats make him, bar none, the best in the English Premier League and one of the best in the world.  He ranked first in the league in clearances (129), most tackles won (129), highest tackle success rate (94%), most take-ons completed (90) and most interceptions (84).  He is an absolute force at the back as he was dribbled past a mere 0.3 times per game last season.  What makes this even more impressive is the fact that he played for a mid-table team and was constantly under pressure from bigger teams.  It’s not up for debate if he’s a great defender or not.  Just ask any of the world-class wingers he faced last season.

Now on to his offensive skill set.  This is where United fans will be hoping to see improvement.  Wan-Bissaka is actually an excellent and underrated dribbler as he had 90 completed take-ons and a high rate of 1.7 dribbles per game.  However, AWB does need significant polishing going forward.  He averaged 33.7 passes per game last season and 0.4 key passes with an overall rate of 73%.  The stats say it all here.  He has a very limited passing range and prefers to play short passes.  Many will argue that he cannot attack and while that is somewhat true he can only get better in that aspect.  He averaged 0.3 crosses per game at a rate of 21% with three assists and four big chances created (zero via crosses).  In the modern game, you’d like your fullbacks to have a higher level of production than that.  These stats can be taken somewhat out of context though as he does get forward he just needs to work on his final ball.

In conclusion, Manchester United are getting an absolutely world-class defender and an excellent dribbler moving forward.  However, if he wants to be better respected as a top fullback in the world he’ll need to improve his passing and final ball on the attack.  This is not too worrisome though as he is merely 21 years of age and has only just moved to fullback as he was a winger in his early days at Crystal Palace.  There’s no question he has the potential to become the best right back in the world in my eyes, and with United badly needing an upgrade over Ashley Young at this position I don’t think there was a better option available on the transfer market.  For the moment there will still be some who question the price tag, but this is nearly a drop in the bucket with United’s ever massive transfer budget.  I have a hunch that when the season starts these questions will have been answered.

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