Wan-Bissaka earned senior role by keeping Zaha quiet

19 Aug 2018
Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Crystal Palace's right-back was a winger until he showed his defensive skills against his team-mate in training

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Aaron Wan-Bissaka was one of the stars of Crystal Palace’s 2-0 victory at Fulham on the opening weekend.

As well as helping his side to keep a clean sheet, the right-back set up the Eagles’ second goal when he burst forward and passed to Wilfried Zaha to score.

It has also won him an army of new fans in Fantasy Premier League as the game's second-most popular defender, with more than a million managers putting him in their squads.

"I enjoy attacking and defending as I used to be a winger," Wan-Bissaka tells Palace's official website. "It’s still in my game a bit and it’s always good to get an assist as well."

Wan-Bissaka joined Palace at the age of 11 and used not to have time for the defensive side of the game. But his destiny changed when he faced Zaha in a training session.

"I was a striker," says the 20-year-old in the video below that charts his development. "I think for all the seasons before I joined the academy I was the top scorer." 

New role

But one Thursday he was asked to play right-back in a practice match against the first team.

"I can remember watching the session and thinking afterwards, 'He did all right at right-back,' " Kevin Keen, who was first-team coach at the time, says. 

"The following week I took Aaron again, and he was playing against Wilf [Zaha]. Wilf didn’t get past him once."

Zaha was not used to having so little joy against defenders.

"I was kind of shocked by how good he was," the winger says. "I’ve played against a few decent right-backs and he’s one of them."

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