With just one Premier League game missed so far this season for Tottenham Hotspur, Kyle Walker has had his most impressive season at right back since his debut campaign for Harry Redknapp in the 2011/2012 season, where they would have qualified for Champions League football, if not for Didier Drogba’s heroics in Munich.
The former Sheffield United youth product has played 25 out of Spurs’ 26 Premier League games so far this campaign – missing out on their 3-0 win versus Stoke City in late December – and keeping 9 clean sheets in the process.
The club rewarded his progress as a Spurs player back in October 2013, committing his future to the club until 2019.
The PFA Young Player of the Year has had a consistent year so far for Spurs, making just one defensive error this season. Although his only goal of the season came at White Hart Lane against Manchester United in early December, it can be argued he wasn’t great defensively in that came, and could be seen as culpable for both goals in the 2-2 draw against David Moyes’ team.
The English international has been one of the most creative outlets in this Spurs team in the 2013/2014 season, creating 31 chances for his team-mates; the most creative right-back in the Premier League this season.
Adding two assists to his name, it’s clear to see Kyle Walker’s strengths are in his attacking play, playing almost as a wing back at times for Spurs.
But how do his defensive and attacking capabilities compare to his fellow right-backs who are battling with their respective clubs for a Champions League spot?
The battle for fourth: Walker vs Glen Johnson, Seamus Coleman and Rafael.
Games played – Walker: 25, Johnson: 17, Coleman: 23 and Rafael: 14.
As suggested above, Walker’s attacking capabilities have seen him as one of the best right backs in the league, resulting in 136 total Spurs appearances and numerous England caps, but how does he compare to Johnson, Coleman and Rafael?
According to EPL Index’s Stats Centre, Walker is beaten by his rivals in the department of total ground 50-50’s, in terms of win percentage; with Johnson and Coleman tied for that prize.
In aerial 50-50 wins, however, Walker is the clear winner, using his taller frame in comparison to the trio above, to claim a 63% win percentage.
The tackling department is another contest that Walker edges past two of his competitors, winning 82% of his 52 tackles this season, compared to Rafael’s 81% of his 27 tackles and Coleman’s 80% tackle success, but Liverpool’s Glen Johnson has an outstanding tackle success rate when coming up against the opposite attacking team, winning 88% of his 36 tackles.
While Kyle Walker is miles ahead in terms of interceptions, it seems that when facing the opposing winger or striker, Walker is reluctant to put a tackle or a challenge in compared to his fellow competitors, with Rafael, Coleman and Johnson dribbled past just 12 times, with Walker dribbled past a total of 26 times.
Possession and Attacking –
The modern full back must be able to defend and attacking with consummate ease (the adjective, not the verb.)
A modern full back must be able to be comfortable enough with the ball at his feet in awkward situations, when there isn’t much movement in front of him.
In terms of possession, Kyle Walker falls behind his competitors, with the Spurs right back dispossessed a total of 32 times, averaging 5 mins per loss of possession. However, the stats show Walker is better at winning possession back, with an average of 16 minutes per possession won, compared to Rafael’s 21, Johnson’s 18 and Coleman’s 17.
When looking at the creativity and goals element of the four right back’s, Seamus Coleman wins the battle of goals scored. The Irish right back flies forward at every opportunity, placing himself in scoring positions, resulting in five goals scored for Everton. Coleman’s fellow Champions League competitors’ goal tallies pale in comparison, with just Kyle Walker having found the scoresheet.
But when assessing the four right back’s creativity, Kyle Walker tops the chances created list, as mentioned above, with the England international the most creative right back in the Premier League so far this season, with 31 chances created, compared to Coleman’s 27, Johnson’s 18 and Rafael’s 12. This has resulted in two assists for Kyle Walker, compared to Coleman and Johnson’s one assist.
Although Kyle Walker tops the chances created charts, his decision making in wide areas and especially at the byline could be improved.
As shown above, Walker has a total of 85 crosses to his name this season, but with just 21% of his crosses finding his target. While not as bad as Rafael and Glen Johnson’s crossing accuracy, it’s clear to see the sheer amount of crosses Walker has made is not comparable to the few crosses Johnson and Rafael have played in their games so far this season.
Seamus Coleman leads the total dribbles and the crossing accuracy departments, successfully completing 43 out of 75 dribbles and has found his target 30% of the time in terms of his crossing accuracy, with 17 out of 56 finding a team-mate.
If a club’s Player of the Season awards were given out now, it could be argued that Kyle Walker and Seamus Coleman would get the award from their fellow team-mates and fans, with the latter arguably the best right-back in the Premier League at the moment, and I’m sure many Evertonians would argue the best right-back in Europe.
Kyle Walker has had a stellar season so far for Spurs, but the best prize at the end of the season would be a place among Europe’s elite and something he would cherish more than any award he could win, but if his fellow competitors who are looking to enter the Champions League next season, especially Liverpool and Everton, carry on their fine form, it could be another season until Kyle Walker and his team-mates qualify for the holy grail of the Champions League.