Is Charlie Austin right about Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s defending?

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Queens Park Rangers striker Charlie Austin, featured on talkSPORT this week, has claimed Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the weak link in Manchester United’s backline and needs to be replaced.

Coming after United’s disappointing 4-1 loss to QPR in pre-season last Saturday, opposition striker Charlie Austin, who found the net on the day, spoke about the Manchester club’s chances this season.

Not holding back any punches, Austin claimed Wan-Bissaka is not up to the required standard.

Speaking on the defender, he said “we played them the other day, and I know it was only a pre-season, but they need to go all out for Kieran Trippier. That’s who they’re crying out for. Aaron Wan-Bissaka can’t defend.”

A somewhat surprising criticism, Wan-Bissaka is often given plaudits for his defending, but after experiencing it first hand, Austin is left disagreeing.

Does the Championship striker have a point though? While Wan-Bissaka does excel at 1v1 defending and is an exceptional tackler, defending does require more.

Most notably, aerially the right-back is weak and only wins 1.17 aerial duels per 90 minutes, putting him in only the 49th percentile of full-backs in the top five European leagues.

Additionally, are the lapses of concentration that have become more evident in Wan-Bissaka’s game.

Left scrambling at the back post against QPR on Saturday, it was a re-occurrence of a common deficiency in his positioning and awareness last season.

Examples include United’s dropped points at home to Fulham, where Wan-Bissaka was caught drifting inside and not covering the late run, leaving space on the far post for Fulham’s goal. He was also culpable of breaking several offside traps on the day.

Or on the biggest stage in the Europa League final, Wan-Bissaka’s failure to cover a simple 1-2 run from Sergio Reguilon led to the first goal and his unawareness of Luuk De Jong at the back post allowed the Dutch man to slot home, sealing defeat.

As a result, despite the world-class tackling, Wan-Bissaka’s defensive positioning and awareness leave a glaring weakness in United’s new look backline.

Further to his defending, Austin also said ” his final ball is not what a centre-forward wants, it’s not what [Edinson] Cavani wants, it’s not what [Marcus] Rashford wants.”

This is a criticism which is backed up by the stats, as he sits in only the 27th percentile for expected assists and 39th percentile for shot-creating actions by full-backs. This is far too low down for a club challenging for the top of the league.

Further back on the field, his on the ball deficiencies are arguably even more impactful. Often being the target of opposition presses, Wan-Bissaka is in the 41st percentile for progressive passes. Luke Shaw by comparison is in the 91st percentile.

Austin’s suggestion of signing Kieran Trippier may yet be fulfilled as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer chases his signing. Put off by Atletico Madrid’s asking price, it is a move that is believed will go down to the wire.

Either way, it is evident Ole is looking for a right-back signing, whether as competition or to take over Wan-Bissaka’s starting role is yet to be seen, but if Charlie Austin and Gareth Southgate’s opinions are to go by, Trippier will be forcing his way into the starting 11.

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