If Tottenham were to lose one of their first-choice full-backs this summer, they’ll hope it’s Kyle Walker and not Danny Rose.
The only one being linked away from the club, though, is Walker.
The fact that he’s been linked with both Manchester City and Barcelona after an alleged bust-up with manager Mauricio Pochettino might seem more than a little strange, though. Certainly to Spurs fans, who might be happy enough to see Kieran Trippier take Walker’s place next season. In fact, many may even be glad to see the back of him.
The charge leveled at Walker is that he’s too attacking, that he leaves his defensive posts too much and is therefore a liability. He is also sometimes accused of lacking end product, or that his crossing leaves a lot to be desired. Why, then, is he linked with two clubs who are among the richest and most prestigious in the world – certainly they could have their pick of talent in the transfer market.
Recently, after Real Madrid left-back Marcelo scored a late winner over Valencia to keep his side in pole position in the La Liga title race, Sid Lowe reflected on how the Brazilian is often held to task for his attacking mindset:
“Defenders who attack stand accused in a way that defenders who don’t never are. The talented are held to task where the limited are let off, as if the talent itself is the problem, a solitary flaw elevated above an hour and a half of football. As if committing fouls is the most important thing a player can learn, and not passing or dribbling of scoring. Or, y’know, playing.”
The same accusation could be made of Walker in England. It is usually his pace and athleticism that are targeted more than the attacking flair of Marcelo, though. The difference is that, in England, a player who has the ability to run fast and hard like the Spurs full-back is seen as a physical player, and the suspicion is that he’s somehow technically deficient. Usually that’s also aimed at his defensive abilities, too.
Perhaps that applies to Walker in a way that it doesn’t his teammate on the other side of Spurs’ defence, Danny Rose, who is seen as a more complete defender and therefore viewed with less suspicion.
Spurs have coped without Rose at times this season, and the fact that Walker has made 30 Premier League starts compared with Rose’s 18 shows that Mauricio Pochettino really has had to make do without him quite a bit this year.
But what’s more striking, when you compare their stats, is that you don’t see one besting the other in the sort of way that would back up the idea that keeping Rose is much more important than keeping Walker.
The infographic above compares their attacking contributions rather than their defensive ones. But even there, each average very similar numbers for tackles, blocks, clearances and interceptions.
Given that, if Walker is sold this summer – and probably for a large fee – it will likely be to a club like City or Barcelona, who favour using attacking full-backs, it looks like the England right-back would be a perfect fit.
Most of Tottenham’s width, too, comes from those players, and their performances over the last two seasons make them worthy of praise, and perhaps large price tags. But more importantly, Walker is worthy of being seen in the same light as his teammate.