This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Following the departure of Vincent Kompany at the end of last season, Manchester City knew the 33-year-old’s absence would leave a gaping hole both in defence, and at the club as a whole. The burden on the likes of John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte as the side’s only remaining centre-back options increased ten-fold.
However, following the latter appearing to pick up a serious injury in the 4-0 triumph over Brighton on Saturday, Pep Guardiola now has just two recognised central defenders for the foreseeable future. Already the talk has shifted to how Fernandinho could adjust from his holding midfield role. One man who could also help solve City’s issues though, is Kyle Walker.
The England international has been a right-back by trade for virtually his entire career, and has played just twice as a traditional centre-back. One was a defeat against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-final second leg at the Etihad, and another in an away victory over Burnley last season.
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At international level however, the story has been far different. The 29-year-old has featured ten times in a more central role out of his total of 48 caps for England, and it is that added experience that could see Guardiola turn towards the former Tottenham star over the coming weeks and months.
Whilst Laporte has been a revelation for City since signing from Athletic Bilbao, Walker could offer an intriguing alternative at the heart of the Etihad side’s defence. His raw pace and athleticism as a natural full-back will mean he will be well suited to keeping a high-line, and if he does get caught out with balls over the top, he is sure to be quick enough to recover.
Speaking back in June last year, the 5 foot 10 star admitted playing as the right-sided centre-back in a back-three for England wasn’t something he favoured, but revealed he had learned so much under Guardiola’s tutelage.
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He said: “My game has developed under tremendously under him. Playing in the position I am playing now for my country, the right centre-half, come two years ago could I have played it? Probably not.”
As City look to compete on multiple fronts this season, the loss of Laporte is undeniably damaging to their hopes of a successful campaign. But Walker’s previous experience at the position, combined with his natural physical capabilities, mark him out as a more than viable option for Guardiola this season at centre-back.