Crystal Palace’s stunning 3-2 victory over Manchester City yesterday is arguably the result of the season so far. One of Palace’s best performers during that game was young academy graduate Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back. The 21-year-old managed to keep one of the best players in the league in Leroy Sane quiet for the entire game and Palace certainly wouldn’t have come away from the Etihad with all three points without him.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka deserves an England call-up more than anyone
But as Palace fans will tell you, this is absolutely nothing new for the up and coming star. Ever since his debut for Palace against Tottenham in February last season, he has earned numerous plaudits for his resolute performances in Palace’s back line. He is the only Premier League player to complete more than 60 tackles and 40 interceptions this season. However, with his performances remaining so consistent, it seems right for him to make the step up to international level. While he already has two caps for the England U21’s, he will be ineligible come next season and I think it right that he be recognised for his talents and begin working his way into the senior squad.
From winger to fullback
Wan-Bissaka actually started his career at the Crystal Palace academy on the right wing. However, at the end of the 2016/17 campaign, he was moved to a more defensive position at right back. This change proved an immediate benefit, with Wan-Bissaka immediately featuring more in the U21’s and becoming a regular face on the first team bench the following season.
His past position still shines through in his present day playing style. While his defensive play is superb he’s also a very intelligent attacker. He is constantly driving at the opposition and even creating chances for his teammates on multiple occasions. This feeds into Gareth Southgate’s approach of playing out from the back with players like Danny Rose and Kyle Walker. It would allow the Palace man to fit right in and show off what he can do, both in defence and attack.
A big game performer
As previously mentioned, Wan-Bissaka made his debut against Spurs on February 25th 2018. He was actually put in the team due to injuries to both Joel Ward & Martin Kelly, leaving him the only conceivable option at right back for Palace. However, despite having small expectations, he rose to the challenge spectacularly, holding his own against the likes of Dele Ali and Christian Eriksen all game. His impressive performances continued in the following two games against two more top six sides; Manchester United and Chelsea.
The first few games of your professional career are never easy, especially in the Premier League. But when you add that to the quality of the teams at its top it’s a huge hill to climb. However, Wan Bissaka was as calm and composed as if he’d been a Premier League regular for years. This confidence against big sides has not faltered since either. Across all Palace’s games against the traditional “big six” this season, Wan-Bissaka has made a total of twenty-six tackles. Of those, twenty-three have been successful – an exceptional record, especially for a team as far down the table as Palace.
Over the years, England’s biggest criticism has been how much they underperform during crunch matches. While they have certainly gotten better at this recently, there is still a lot of scepticism from critics. Most notably about most of their World Cup run being against less capable teams like Sweden and Columbia. Whereas against teams like Belgium, they faltered fairly easily. In Wan-Bissaka, England would have a man who has a proven record of keeping a cool head against formidable opposition.
England’s youthful revolution
After the failed attempts of the 2000s and the early 2010s, Gareth Southgate decided it was time to rebuild from the bottom up. The likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Pickford were all hyped massively when they first broke onto the scene. They all had fantastic games for England after being called up, and by the 2018 World Cup, they had developed into experienced internationals. This has continued this season, with the likes of Leicester’s James Maddison and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho earning their first ever England call-ups after impressive starts to the season.
Given England’s huge focus on youth, Wan-Bissaka would fit like a glove. Obviously, he wouldn’t start immediately, especially with both Walker and Kieran Trippier sharing his position. He may not even earn his first cap for a while given how strong the current team has been. But with the proper nurturing and exposure, he could easily become as good a player as Sterling or Trippier. He has all the qualities needed to play for England and deserves some serious recognition from his country’s national team.
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