“He actually made a mistake in the 94th minute and I was relieved because I was starting to think he might be a robot.”
Those were the words of Roy Hodgson after Aaron Wan-Bissaka surprised everyone with a momentary and inconsequential lapse in concentration last week.
Crystal Palace’s wonderkid has been the league’s best right-back this season.
His robotic consistency has made him a fan favourite at Selhurst Park, where he is routinely celebrated with a chant to the tune of The Clash’s ‘Rock the Casbah’.
Your wingers don’t like him… Wan-Bissaka, Wan-Bissaka!
The attacking prowess of full-backs has become increasingly important in modern times but 21-year-old Wan-Bissaka is a throwback to (*Fabian Delph voice*) the basics of football.
He’s a defender who defends, really bloody well.
Wan-Bissaka is statistically the best tackler in Europe’s top five leagues having been successful in 91 challenges, roughly one every 24 minutes.
The stats reinforce what the Palace fans have observed first-hand, he’s a winger’s worst nightmare.
Incredibly, only seven players have dribbled past him this season — Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Sadio Mane, Felipe Anderson, Luciano Vietto, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Stuart Armstrong.
The league’s best dribbler is noticeable in his absence on that list.
Eden Hazard is just one of many left frustrated by Wan-Bissaka’s unerringly diligence.
Too often we think of defending in pragmatic terms and fail to recognise natural talent.
Just as Hazard was born to dribble, Wan-Bissaka was born to tackle — just because the latter’s gift is less aesthetically pleasing, doesn’t mean it’s any less special.
A bright future awaits, and sadly for Palace fans, it is likely to lead him away from his boyhood club.
Gareth Southgate has a surplus of right-backs already with Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier all featuring regularly for England in the last year.
Wan-Bissaka may not offer as much going forward as those three, but he’s already a level above in terms of defence.
There’s every chance the Croydon-born starlet may leapfrog his rivals and secure a spot in Southgate’s preferred XI for the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
Even with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Marcus Rashford for competition, Wan-Bissaka would be a deserving winner of Young Player of the Player.
For now though, he is committed to ensuring Palace’s survival with 13 games of his breakout season remaining.
And we can be sure of one thing from now until May and beyond — your wingers won’t like him.