Aaron Wan-Bissaka has had a simply monstrous start to the season. Putting up a mamouth 5.6 tacles a game, Wan-Bissaka has silenced his critics which prviously mocked United for what was suggsted to be a vast overpayment for a young English talent showing glimmers of promise. His 5.6 tackles per 90 puts him top in the EPL this season with even the most labouring defensive midfielders such as the likes of Wilfred Ndidi, unable to match his remarkable output.
Whilst ability to pull off those perfectly timed “spiderman” challenges is now well known by the average football fan, many aspects of his game remain underrated. One of those is his dribbling ability, as his slick composure with the ball at his feet is most certainly one of his strongest assets. Attempting 2.4 dribbles per game, and completing 1.6 of them (giving him a better completion rate than Wilfred Zaha, highly rated for his dribbling), Wan-Bissaka has shown that he can be valuable in pushing the side forward and has the raw talent to beat a man. Making 1.2 interceptions and 1.8 clearances per 90, he has shown that he is able to dissect the game and really help to slow down the momentum of the team by winning the ball back or clearing the danger.
If you were to ask any United fan what their greatest issue was last season it would almost undoubtedly be their right hand flank. An ageing Ashley Young was thrown in out of position into the right back role with the added pressure and responsibility of the captain’s armband and United simply didn’t have a stable right wing option. With the addition of Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James ahead of him, United have looked much more lethal on that side both going forwad and in defence with the right hand channel being more defensively and ofensively productive this season for United than the left, this was certainly not the case last year.
Looking at Ashley Young’s stats from last year paints a clear picture of the discrepency in quality between him and Wan-Bissaka. Young averaged 0.3 tackles and 1 interception per 90 showing his lack of that intrinsic awareness top quality defenders have to win the ball back. He averaged 2.7 clearances per 90 which suggests he was required to do more last ditch defensing suggesting a lack of positional awareness but more likely a lack of composure or skill to bring the ball out from the back. He attempted only 0.6 dribbles per 90 and of those he only completed 50%. To even further condemn him, Young’s greatest historical asset, his crossing also took a sharp nose dive in output with him making over 4.4. inaccurate long balls per 90 out of the 5.6 he attempts and only 1.5 out of every 3.4 corners he takes are accurate as well.
Using the underlying statistics, United’s defence have been the best in the league tgis yar showing how remarkable a turn around Wan-Bissaka has made. They are top for goals against, only allowing 4 and have conceded the 2nd most shots in the league. Their XGA sits at 3.31 placing them top of the league above the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool with the former having an XGA of 4.48. Despite them curently sitting in 6th, looking at expected points they seem to be faily unlucky with expected points suggesting that really they should be sitting in second place, behing Manchester City. Looking at last season, United were 11th for goals against at 54 and XGA had them at 52.8, placing them 8th.
Obviously the addition of Harry Maguire has had a proound impact on this sudden improvement in defensive stability however the midfield has arguably gotten weaker. United have lost the extrem coverage that Ander Herrera brought as he moved to PSG and despite being a positive sale they did lose another defensively sound player in Fellaini. With Scott McTominay being worshipped by many United fans, his underlying numbers are simply not that impressive and rank him as an average or slightly below average Premier League quality midfielder. Matic is also a year older and his legs seem to have gone whilst Juan Mata is being employed in a midfield 3 despite him being completely immobile and offering hardly any defensive contribution. It has all simply been lft to Paul Pogba, who has simply had to focus on chance creation with the lack of creativity in United’s midfield. This simply makes Wan-Bissaka’s numbers even more astounding.
But why is he the best, or most important? Why not give this title to Pogba, or Rashord or De Gea. Simply put, Wan-Bissaka has solved a poblem looming over United since the departure of Gary Neville, with many players such as Antonio Valnecia and Ashley Young have had to convert postions in orde to fill the glaring gap in United’s lineup. The accquisition of Wan-Bissaka provides a long term solution with a generational talent who arguably is already the most defensively sound right back in world football at the momemnt, with only the likes of Joshua Kimmich and Trent Alexander Arold really challenging him to the top overall right back claim. Already showing improvements in his attacking game, Wan-Bissaka is most certainly heading towards being one of the best players to ever play for this prestigous club.