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Paul Scholes called Man United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka ‘useless on the ball’, but is he right?

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There was a moment late in the first half at Old Trafford on Saturday when Aaron Wan-Bissaka decided enough was enough and drove straight into Manchester City’s defence.

Manchester United had been passed and outclassed for 40 minutes, barely able to get the ball in half of City, let alone do anything with it.

In the end, Wan-Bissaka tried to pass Cristiano Ronaldo, but the Portuguese may have been so stunned by this sudden jolt of attacking move that he mis-timed his point and was flagged for offside.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka didn’t get much of a chance to show his attacking prowess in the fullback as Manchester United were battered by rivals City

Joao Cancelo, City's man of the match, gave Wan-Bissaka a scorching time at Old Trafford

Joao Cancelo, City’s man of the match, gave Wan-Bissaka a scorching time at Old Trafford

It was actually one of the better moments when Wan-Bissaka moved forward this season. The United right-back is certainly an excellent tackler, but many wonder what he contributes as he crosses the halfway line.

Not least Paul Scholes, who said Wan-Bissaka was ‘useless on the ball’ after City’s 2-0 win on Saturday.

These shortcomings were compounded, he suggested, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to rebuild his team with three centre-backs and two full-backs.

Scholes’ point was that when Wan-Bissaka is expected to contribute both offensively and defensively, he is simply not up to the task.

Paul Scholes described Wan-Bissaka as 'useless' when in possession as United struggled

Paul Scholes described Wan-Bissaka as ‘useless’ when in possession as United struggled

It was just one area where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team underperformed on Saturday

It was just one area where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team underperformed on Saturday

It didn’t help the United right-back that he got a scorching time from City’s Joao Cancelo, who scored both goals and was named man of the match.

But is Scholes right in his assessment of a player United paid £50million for in 2019?

We analyze how Wan-Bissaka’s attacking stats compare to other right-backs at leading Premier League clubs.

GOALS AND ASSISTS

Certainly, the base stats for contributing goals and assists don’t reflect well for Wan-Bissaka, who has a big nil in both columns this season.

Last season he scored twice – against Newcastle and Southampton, both in the Premier League – and provided six assists overall.

This doesn’t compare favorably with Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has scored a goal and four assists in the league so far this season alone. Chelsea’s Reece James has meanwhile scored four and set three more.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, pictured after scoring for Liverpool at West Ham on Sunday, sets the standard among Premier League right-backs when it comes to goals and assists

Trent Alexander-Arnold, pictured after scoring for Liverpool at West Ham on Sunday, sets the standard among Premier League right-backs when it comes to goals and assists

Cancelo, who drove Wan-Bissaka into a rut on Saturday, has two goals and five assists this season. The Portuguese can play on either side of the defense, but is mainly used at left back by Pep Guardiola.

City’s regular right-back, Kyle Walker, has played nine more league games this season.

Wan-Bissaka could definitely provide more assists. Alexander-Arnold is the same age and scored nine goals last season, 15 the season before and 16 the season before.

But Saturday illustrated the divide between United and City at the moment, and Liverpool’s 5-0 win at Old Trafford last month did the same to another rival.

United don’t exactly look like a slick machine from which goals and assists can flow.

Chelsea's Reece James also has an excellent return of goals and assists from that position

Chelsea’s Reece James also has an excellent return of goals and assists from that position

dribbling

Wan-Bissaka is certainly willing to put the ball forward, even if it doesn’t always work.

He has attempted 34 dribbles in 11 Premier League games so far this season and completed 18 of them – a 53 per cent success rate.

Only Cancelo of the fullbacks shown here comes close to the number of dribbles attempted. It’s not something Alexander-Arnold goes for too often – just eight in nine games.

James is the player who usually gets a positive result when he starts with the ball – his success rate, at a smaller sample size, is 71.43 percent this season.

One criticism of Wan-Bissaka is that his dribbling often goes into dead ends and he is then reluctant to attempt a cross or forward pass, but instead goes back again and seeks support.

But there’s no denying that he’s willing to push forward with the ball.

Wan-Bissaka is certainly willing to dribble the ball, but can be forced through dead ends

Wan-Bissaka is certainly willing to dribble the ball, but can be forced through dead ends

INTERSECTION

In addition to the final product theme, Wan-Bissaka fired five crosses this season that picked a teammate, but failed with 18.

So about one in five of his crosses or set-pieces will pick a United player in the middle.

In this regard, Wan-Bissaka is a bit behind on the sophisticated cross skills of Alexander-Arnold, whose boxed deliveries are a real weapon for Liverpool.

Alexander-Arnold has shot 78 crosses this season and still maintains close to 30 percent accuracy. Just like James, but only a fraction of Alexander-Arnold’s total figure.

Wan-Bissaka’s accuracy, however, is comparable to that of Cancelo and Walker, but it is not enough to suggest that he is a natural full-back if Solskjaer continues to use them.

Wan-Bissaka crossing stats are similar to Cancelo and Walker, but lagging behind the other players

Wan-Bissaka crossing stats are similar to Cancelo and Walker, but lagging behind the other players

OPPORTUNITY CREATION

No doubt every United player had a hard time creating chances against City – they fired more shots at goal at their own goalkeeper David de Gea than at Ederson.

Wan-Bissaka certainly found it difficult to get anything going and he was far from alone. But it’s not the first time he’s struggled creatively this season.

In his 11 league games, Wan-Bissaka has created eight chances, but not a single through ball.

By comparison, Alexander-Arnold has cashed in on 30 Liverpool chances and played eight through balls. James was responsible for 15 chances and Cancelo 10. The City fullback also likes a through ball, netting 10 in 11 games.

So when we compare the Premier League’s best players and their offensive abilities, Wan-Bissaka again doesn’t come out right.

Wan-Bissaka battles Eric Dier for the ball in United's 3-0 win over Tottenham last weekend

Wan-Bissaka battles Eric Dier for the ball in United’s 3-0 win over Tottenham last weekend

KEEP PROPERTY

Much attacking play from a fullback can feel like trial and error, which can mean giving the ball away more often than you’d like.

Wan-Bissaka has lost 136 possession in his 11 Premier League games, which sounds bad until you see Alexander-Arnold has done it 204 times and Cancelo 200 times.

Walker (95) and James (72) seem more adept at holding the ball.

All the players here maintain passing accuracy in the 80s, with Walker the best at 88.72 followed by James at 87.23 percent.

So the United man is no worse than anyone else at holding the ball. The key now is to learn how to do more with it.

Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker is one of the most adept at holding onto the ball

Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker is one of the most adept at holding onto the ball

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