Manchester United’s rebuild continued with their second summer signing as Aaron Wan-Bissaka joins from Crystal Palace. It’s amazing to think that around year ago, AWB was a nearly unknown who had been Palace’s starting right-back for a mere seven matches late in the 2017-18 season. His main claim to fame in August 2018 was that he was a likely starter who cost just £4m in FPL. Really, that was his starting point in many fans’ minds: the joy of having a £4m starting player in their fantasy football squads. One year on, not only has he become one of the best value players in both FPL and Fantrax, but his performances have seen him transfer to Manchester United for an initial £45m fee on the back of his breakthrough season.
On the pitch, AWB potentially solves one of United’s biggest problems from last season. Game after game, we saw the opposition focus attacks down United’s right hand side where 33 year old veteran Ashley Young was protected by the aging legs of Juan Mata or out of position Jess Lingard / Marcus Rashford amongst others. It really was such an obvious weakness, one that the club had to address by buying a new right back whose first duty would be the defensive aspect of the role.
It may be for one season only, but AWB’s stats make impressive reading. Looking at the Premier League fullbacks in 2018-19, Wan-Bissaka topped the following categories according to BT Sport:
- Most clearances – 129
- Most tackles won – 129
- Highest tackle success rate - 94%
- Most take-ons completed - 90
- Most interceptions - 84
United needed a right back to solve the clear defensive weakness, and on paper they have (dare I say surprisingly, given their recent transfer record) bought a player who potentially does just that. The signing suggests one more positive thought for any United fans: Maybe, perhaps, possibly the club is working away from the buying-the-nicest-sweet-in-the-shop approach and instead getting their players with a clear plan in place.
A new level
AWB has just the one full season in the Premier League, a season he played for a side whose general tactical approach was to sit back in well organized numbers and then counter. There will be new challenges to test him in 2019-20.
First, he has the often tricky second season to overcome. Players and managers will be adapting their approach to work around his clearly excellent one-on-one defending. Next AWB will be playing in a side where there will be a greater expectation to play more open, attacking football. Much more so than at Palace, he will need to overlap, create space and spur attacking opportunities. Defensively, he seems likely to receive less protection than he enjoyed at Palace, so those wonderful one-on-one stats will need to continue. Finally he will also be playing with many more eyes watching his every move, both good and bad. Playing for United is a pressure cooker that makes or breaks young players with potential.
When FPL launched its 2019-20 league, AWB was still a Crystal Palace player, and he was priced at £5.5m. In 2018-19 he provided 12 clean sheets, 3 assists, zero goals and 18 bonus points. New owners Manchester United only provided 7 clean sheets all season, a stat that they surely will get better even without signing a world class central defender. We are still going to need to see a little more from AWB on the assist front. He is actaully a converted winger, so his foundation does suggest that there is plenty of room for improvement in the attacking elements of his game.
The biggest issue for me is that Harry Maguire is being linked with a huge money move to either United or Manchester City. Priced at £5.5m in FPL with his goal threat would trump AWB as a FPL selection should he join Utd (and even more so if he becomes a way into Pep Guardiola’s dominating side).
In Fantrax, not only was AWB a season keeper for many at his starting price, he was a consistent phantom-points earner. Likely to be priced in double figures when the season starts, I very much doubt we will have him in our shortlist.
A potentially excellent signing for the club, but one not tempting me in the world of fantasy football as much as much as it may you. It would be nice if he has a white hot pre-season to make me change my mind.
What are your thoughts? Will the move to a big six club see a points increase in your view? Will he be in your opening FPL squads?