For many Premier League supporters without an in-depth knowledge of Crystal Palace, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was probably best known for being a cheap defensive option in fantasy football – until this weekend.
After his sterling display in Palace’s 2-0 victory over newly-promoted Fulham, the 20-year-old defender is rightly drawing mass accolades and receiving the recognition he deserves as one of England’s brightest young defenders.
“I thought he was excellent, both defensively and offensively.”
Matched up against another fellow English starlet, 18-year-old left winger Ryan Sessegnon, Wan-Bissaka excelled and neutralised the attacker all match long– a feat which was revealed in the right back’s match statistics.
According to Opta, Wan-Bissaka made four tackles, six clearances, four interceptions, and one block at Craven Cottage. These contributions were vital as Palace kept an opening-day clean sheet, and Wan-Bissaka’s diligent tracking of Sessegnon denied Fulham the chance at goal.
Perhaps Sessegnon’s most dangerous trait is his ability to drift into goalscoring positions and slot home rebounds or low crosses, and there were plenty of opportunities on Saturday as goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made a number of saves from the shots of Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Normally, Fulham supporters would expect the 18-year-old to be at hand to slot home the resulting scraps, yet at every ocassion it was instead Wan-Bissaka who intelligently cleared the danger.
In addition, the 20-year-old defender provided some integral attacking contributions, recording 69 touches (the most of any Palace player) and supplying the composed assist for Wilfried Zaha’s second half goal.
Wan-Bissaka shrugged off a challenge from Mitrovic, strode past a flat-footed Sessegnon, and slipped Zaha clean through to make it 2-0, a wonderful, driving run that sealed the match for the Eagles.
In all, the young Englishman played a stellar match and was one of Crystal Palace’s standout performers, staking his claim for a place in the team of the week and perhaps an England call-up later this year.