Kyle Walker’s move to Manchester City, worth an initial 50 million Euros , made him the most expensive English player in history.However, he’s gone about operating at right full back, in a very different role at Manchester City as opposed to his time at Tottenham. This can primarily be explained by the difference in style of the two managers. Today, we look at how his role has changed and the impact it has had on his positional play.
Walker was part of the tightest defense in the league last season, and is on course for something even better this season.Walker has very rarely been found wanting and has put up a sturdy display against the teams that he has faced so far.
We start off by looking at the conventional job of a defender, which is to put in a tackle. Guardiola’s system however relies on his defenders (as Stones found out last season) to use their head to be in the right place that prevents them from having to make the tackle in the first place . This emphasises his current manager’s mentality of strong positional play. Mauricio Pochettino on the other hand relies more on a high press to nick the ball from an opposition winger, that allows the team to counter on the break. This explains a huge discrepancy in tackles made , with Walker averaging 0.8 per game in a City shirt as opposed to 2.2 each game during his time at White Hart Lane.
It would appear as though, for quick wingers Pochettino’s system is easier to wriggle out of against the likes of Trippier (This season) Walker( from his time at Spurs).Having said that , the three marauding centre backs are more often than not present to cover.
On the other hand, under Guardiola, Walker cannot afford to misplace his passes and lose possession as Otamendi and Stones could be susceptible to pacy wingers running rings around them. Not that Otamendi and Stones lack quality but the three centre backs at Spurs provided Walker the defensive support (in numbers) he does not have at his disposal at City . At Manchester City , a high price tag has got with it added roles and responsibilities for the man who could be well on his way to becoming a Premier League Great. Pep believes the ideal way to use Walker is to get the best out of his passing and creative ability along with a rigid defensive shift being put in.
Variation in positions:
Walker has been used as an inverted full back at City while towards the end of his stint at Tottenham, he was used at right Wingback – displaying his versatility. Playing higher and wider up the pitch in a Spurs shirt meant that Walker would have considerably more chances to nick the ball back . Whereas at City, in an Inverted Fullback position, he is expected to have to nick the ball back from players of the likes of Kante,Fabregas and (other quality central midfielders in the league ) who are known to keep the ball.
Similarly,last season when Chelsea were beaten 2-0 Walker had an opposite role of staying out wide, breaking beyond the inside forward, Christian Eriksen, cutting it back to the Kane, in turn opening a gap between the wing back and the centre half, creating a void that the rest of the defense felt needed plugging that ultimately isolated moses in a 1 v 1 with Alli in the air.
Guardiola and Pochettino both provided very different solutions to dealing with Chelsea’s 5-2-3, with very different roles for England’s first choice right full back.
A thorough detailed anlaysis by umaXit football
Walker, playing his new role(under Pep),means his numbers are up for pass completion, something that you’d expect in a Guardiola side but the number of chances he creates per game are going down. The Fullback was a pivotal cog in going forward for Pochtettino whereas Guardiola is more satisfied in letting his front 4 do the business and ensuring Walker is utilised for more defensive responsibilities.
At City, Walker’s pass length is much more condensed, as a Fullback’s primary job is not to bomb on and spray balls into the box but to push the ball towards the more attacking players whereas at Spurs, he provided the width thereby requiring him to make longer, forward passes.
Attacking prowess and possession:
His possession score (Image 1) shows how he is required to make the safe pass to a more creative player as opposed to trying it out himself. This move is clearly exhibited by Walker creating much fewer chances per game at City as opposed to Spurs. Perhaps, it wouldn’t hurt Pep Guardiola to allow the Fullback some more freedom against sides that lack pace on the wings , as was displayed at Brighton.
Walker’s successful passes touch-map as an attacking Wing Back in his first game of the season away to Brighton was a clear indication – that the player can be attacking threat when asked to Bomb forward. Perhaps , Guardiola has plans to play the English International in this role once the fixture list eases.
Guardiola started Walker as a Natural Fullback to deal with Mane’s pace, but after the Senegalese was sent off, immediately gave Walker the liberty to push on forward on the right flank which led an unsure Moreno being run ragged at the other end.
To sum it up, Pep has used Walker rather sparingly in an attacking sense, and shored him up defensively, while his Argentinian counter part, preferred to use Walker in a more attacking sense, which had the potential of exposing Spurs a little defensively (although to be fair on Pochettino he had the privilege of a solid back three) . As the season prolongs, it remains to be seen which role suits Walker more. For now though, it would appear that the general consensus is that Walker is on his way to becoming the best full back in the League, his case furthered by his ability to play a variety of roles
Comparison Matrix and Touch-map via Squawka
Kyle Wakler Image via Talksport
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