The role of the modern-day fullback has been rethought into a more distinct attacking force. They are required to provide wide support for their winger on the overlap as much as stop attacking moves down their flank. Hence, the complete fullback is a rare quality in the game, one that often requires patience and development of the player.

A certain flashpoint of the currently suspended Premier League season has been the development of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, two young right-backs at the forefront of England’s embarrassment of riches in that position.
Alexander-Arnold has been making his case as the undisputed Premier League Young Player of the Season, following his superb performances as Liverpool steamrolled through the title race. 

Alexander-Arnold has become a key player for boyhood club Liverpool. (Getty Images)

The 21-year-old right-back is a key cog in Liverpool’s attack, maintaining the width and supplying the crosses that Mo Salah, Mané and Roberto Firmino thrive upon to maintain their mammoth statistics. He averages 2.6 key passes per game – by far the highest in the Liverpool squad – and is responsible for the most crosses in the league this season.

On the red side of Manchester, Wan-Bissaka has enjoyed a solid first season on the right of Manchester United’s back four. The Ex-Crystal Palace man has upheld his reputation as a fantastic reader of the game who stops attacking moves with his superb tackling. His performances have earned him the nickname ‘the Spider’ for how he almost invites attackers in and wipes out the threat with emphatic execution.

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AWB has become the best one-on-one defender in the division, firmly taking over from Cesar Azpilicueta as a fullback who loves the art of defending. He has completed 99 tackles, the second-highest in the division behind Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira, as his qualities have helped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men in the weeks leading up to the global lockdown. 
Due to the delicate contrast between a bad foul and a clean tackle, his tackling and determination are as important as the recovery speed and timing required to execute without getting booked.

Wan-Bissaka enjoyed dominant displays against Raheem Sterling in the Manchester Derby. (Getty Images)

Evidently, both players have laid a benchmark for fullbacks this season but for completely different reasons. Alexander-Arnold for his quality on the ball and Wan-Bissaka for his prowess in extinguishing attacks.

The Champions League winner is one of the best attacking fullbacks in the world; his overlapping runs, switching of play, superb crossing ability, and set-piece prowess have been overwhelmingly important to Jürgen Klopp’s well-coached system. Alexander-Arnold’s craft has been apparent since he made his first-team debut and it recently made him the first defender in Premier League history to record double figures in assists for successive seasons (with a delightful nod of appreciation from FPL managers); following on from his Guinness world record for most assists by a Premier League defender last season (12) which earned him an inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year.

Alexander-Arnold’s sweet right foot deliveries have been responsible for many Liverpool goals in the last two seasons. (Getty Images)


Liverpool fans need little reminding, it was also Trent’s quickly-taken corner that created Divock Origi’s winner which sent the Reds to last season’s Champions League final.

Despite Liverpool’s approach requiring less of his defensive qualities, it’s easy to name Alexander-Arnold as the best right fullback in the world right now, more so after his Ballon D’or nomination. However, his United colleague is not a tad less of a fullback than he is.

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Beyond his huge defensive contributions, Wan-Bissaka has improved in the final third since registering his first of two assists against Newcastle on Boxing day. The 22-year-old has gone up on average crosses (2.5-3.5), key passes (0.5-1.2) and dribbles (2.4-3.3) per game. Although his earlier lack of attacking output could be down to his teammates, confidence, or the team’s inconsistent form, Wan-Bissaka now bombs forward with typical aggression and the confidence that he and his teammates can make something out of it.

Wan-Bissaka’s has shown the right sort of mentality needed at Old Trafford. (Getty Images)

Having a fullback who is exhaustively hard to get past and hard to contain going forward is undoubtedly returning some of the fear factor in facing United. At a price of £50 million, United are set to get their money’s worth in quality, hard work, and determination, as Wan-Bissaka continues to develop into a complete fullback.

Thus far, Alexander-Arnold and Wan-Bissaka have mastered their strengths and continue to improve other parts of their game. 

Who’s the better right-back?

Indeed, it’s all down to the team’s tactics.

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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