Was Scholes right to describe Wan-Bissaka as 'useless on the ball?'

Paul Scholes slammed Aaron Wan-Bissaka for being ‘useless on the ball’ and he has a point… the Man United right-back remains WELL behind rivals Trent, James and Walker when it comes to attacking

  • Paul Scholes was less than complimentary about Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s abilities
  • Man United legend said the right-back was ‘useless on the ball’ when attacking
  • It came in the wake of Saturday’s dismal performance in losing to Man City
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had deployed Wan-Bissaka as a wing-back in his system
  • The defender doesn’t compare favourably to similar Premier League stars 

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

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

In the end Wan-Bissaka tried to play Cristiano Ronaldo through but the Portuguese was perhaps so stunned by this sudden jolt of attacking movement he mistimed his run and was flagged offside.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka wasn’t given much chance to show his attacking qualities in the wing-back position as Manchester United were battered by rivals City 

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

It was actually one of the better occasions when Wan-Bissaka has pushed forward this season. United’s right-back is certainly an excellent tackler but many question what he contributes when he crosses the halfway line.

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

These shortcomings were amplified, he suggested, because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to again set his team up with three central defenders and two wing-backs.

Scholes’s point was that when Wan-Bissaka is expected to contribute just as much offensively as defensively he just isn’t up to the job.

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

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

It didn’t help the United right-back’s case that he was given a torrid time by City’s Joao Cancelo, who set up both their goals and was named man of the match.

But is Scholes correct in his evaluation of a player United paid Crystal Palace £50million for in 2019? 

We analyse how the attacking stats of Wan-Bissaka compare to other right-backs at leading Premier League clubs.

GOALS AND ASSISTS

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

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

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

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 ran Wan-Bissaka ragged on Saturday, has two goals and five assists this season. The Portuguese can play on either side of the defence but is used mainly at left-back by Pep Guardiola.

City’s regular right-back, Kyle Walker, has yet to get off the mark in nine league appearances this season.

Wan-Bissaka could certainly do with contributing more assists. Alexander-Arnold is the same age and set up nine goals last season, 15 the season before and 16 the one before that.

But Saturday illustrated the gulf between United and City right now, and Liverpool’s 5-0 win at Old Trafford last month did likewise with another rival.

United really don’t resemble a slick machine from which goals and assists can flow at the moment.

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

DRIBBLING

Wan-Bissaka is certainly willing to take the ball forward, even if he’s not always successful in doing so.

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

Only Cancelo of the full-backs featured here comes close to the quantity of dribbles attempted. It’s not something Alexander-Arnold goes in for too often – just eight in nine matches.

James is the player who usually gets a positive outcome when he sets off with the ball – his success rate, from a smaller sample size, is 71.43 per cent this season.

One criticism of Wan-Bissaka is that his dribbles often go down blind alleys and he’s then reluctant to try a cross or forward pass, instead turning back again and looking for support.

But there can be no denying his willingness to push forward with the ball.

Wan-Bissaka is certainly willing to dribble with the ball – but can be forced down blind alleys

CROSSING

Further to the end product theme, Wan-Bissaka has fired in five crosses this season that have picked out a team-mate but failed with 18.

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

On this, Wan-Bissaka is some way behind the well-honed crossing skills of Alexander-Arnold, whose deliveries into the box are a real weapon for Liverpool.

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Alexander-Arnold has fired in 78 crosses this season and still maintains a near 30 per cent accuracy rate. As does James, but from just a fraction of Alexander-Arnold’s overall figure.

Wan-Bissaka’s accuracy rate is similar to Cancelo and Walker, however, but it isn’t enough to suggest he is a natural wing-back should Solskjaer continue to utilise them.

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

CHANCE CREATION

Every United player certainly struggled when it came to generating chances against City – they fired more shots on target at their own keeper David de Gea than they did at Ederson.

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

In his 11 league games, Wan-Bissaka has created eight chances but hasn’t played a single through ball.

By comparison, Alexander-Arnold has teed up 30 Liverpool chances and played eight through balls. James has been responsible for 15 chances and Cancelo 10. The City full-back also loves a through pass, threading 10 in 11 games.

So when compared to the Premier League’s best and their offensive capabilities, Wan-Bissaka again doesn’t come off well.

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

KEEPING POSSESSION

A lot of a full-back’s attacking play can feel like trial and error, which can include giving the ball away more often than you’d like.

Wan-Bissaka has lost possession 136 times 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) do seem more adept at keeping hold of the ball.

All of the players here maintain a passing accuracy in the 80s, with Walker the best at 88.72 followed by James on 87.23 per cent.

So the United man is no worse than anyone else in keeping hold of the ball. The key now is to learn how to do more with it.

Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker is among the most adept at hanging on to the ball




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