Paul Parker weighed in with comments last week comparing Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold. In his opinion, fullbacks are there to defend first and foremost, and on that definition, he believes United’s £50m summer is the best in his position in the Premier League:
“I’ve said it many times, I watched him often last year, I just like what he does. People talk about the lad at Liverpool [Alexander-Arnold] but he can’t defend like Wan-Bissaka, whose defending and positioning is very good.”
“He wants to defend, he loves it. And every time he won a tackle [in United’s 4-0 win over Chelsea] there was no doubt he won it cleanly. You would think he had been there years. I’m judging him as a defender. He is the best right-back in the Premier League.”
Such comments will obviously provoke debate, but without getting into too involved about who is better, it is important to emphasise just how good Wan-Bissaka is as a defender.
Since the start of last season, the 21-year-old has averaged 2.62 tackles per 90 minutes. If you compare that that England’s other defenders, you can see the vast difference in style.
Alexander Arnold averages just 0.16 per 90, Kieran Tripper is slightly higher at 0.18 while Kyle Walker is 0.28. It must be said, though, that both Alexander Arnold and Walker average a 40% success rate in contrast to Wan-Bissaka’s 20% but it shows how proactive the United right-back is.
That point is emphasised even more when we look at the number of successful defensive actions the England Under 21 international makes per game. These actions constitute tackles, interceptions, one-on-one duels and aerial duels.
From the beginning of the last campaign, Wan Bissaka’s averages 10.95 per match with the next closest being Trippier on 8.49. The United fullback is committed to his defensive duties, there can be no denying that. He very much deserves his ‘Spider’ nickname.
The one major criticism that has been levelled at the former Crystal Palace star is that he lacks creativity in the final third. The defender clearly does have room for improvement in this area of his game.
Wan-Bissaka’s average key passes per game (0.25) lags well behind Alexander-Arnold (0.84) and his expected assists (xA) of 2.82 will need to improve as well. In a team that has so much of the ball in the opposition half like United, some development will be required.
Even so, there are some promising signs. He almost matches Alexander-Arnold in terms of successful crosses (32.6% to the Liverpool star’s 33.2%) although the Reds defender does deliver, on average, three more crosses per 90 minutes.
Wan-Bissaka dribbles far more frequently (4.56 dribbles per 90) than the likes of Walker, Trippier and Alexander-Arnold, and he is far more of a ball carrier than he is an assist maker currently.
Clearly, the potential is there for an excellent all-round right-back so while Parker’s praise is warranted, it is important to recognise that the United star is very much his own man and direct comparisons with others really isn’t that helpful, particularly when he is still developing his game.