This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.
Kieran Trippier’s transfer to Atletico Madrid has left the door wide open for a right-back to step up and fill the shoes of the departing defender, and despite Serge Aurier expected to be next in line, young Kyle Walker-Peters could be the one to claim the spot for himself.
Walker-Peters has delivered some strong displays in his few appearances for Tottenham Hotspur despite not being heavily involved in the first-team. Last season Walker-Peters managed 10 appearances in all competitions and nine the year before that, so he’s still got some way to go before he considers himself a first-team regular.
At 22, he’s not exactly a youngster anymore, but he’s still got a huge chunk of his career left to enjoy and has plenty of learning to do throughout.
He was part of the team that drew 1-1 with Barcelona at the Nou Camp to qualify for the Champions League knock-out rounds, a result that led Spurs onto a wonderful run to the final of Europe’s elite competition.
The defender can play at both right and left-back, and has even had stints in right and left-midfield in the academy. However, his future does look to be on the right of the defence, and there’s definitely some quality to exploit if he’s nurtured well. Indeed, in the 5-0 home victory for Tottenham against Bournemouth back in December, the English defender bagged himself a hat-trick of assists.
Trippier’s departure means the right-back spot is up for grabs, but what might be slightly concerning for Tottenham is that none of the other right-sided-defenders stepped up during what was a particularly poor campaign for the new Atletico man.
Of course, Aurier battled injury woes, missing a number of outings with hamstring and groin problems, but one thing’s for certain: if Mauricio Pochettino is going to avoid dipping into the market for new players, one of the remaining options needs to improve.
Walker-Peters should enjoy more game-time and more exposure to the first-team without Trippier there, whether he’s a starter or not. The cup games, perhaps the odd Champions League group stage match and certainly a few Premier League games are likely to be on offer to the right-back who’ll desperately try to prove his worth.
Juan Foyth has enjoyed time at right-back as well, so the competition is there, but with Walker-Peters unlikely to leave this summer, you’d think he’s in contention to play somewhat regularly in north London, particularly after the Argentine sustained an injury in pre-season.
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Walker-Peters should be looking to battle his way into the first-team, because at 22, he’s not a youngster anymore. Trippier was clearly trusted by Pochettino, but Aurier has looked a mixed bag since his arrival, often showing his class and power and drive, but sometimes looking clumsy in defence as well.
This means the English youngster has a huge opportunity to break into the starting XI and claim regular game-time. It won’t be easy, but that has to be his target.
The Spurs boss has never shied away from trusting youngsters and academy graduates to start regularly, so there’s no obstacle there for Walker-Peters, it’s simply down to his quality and performances. A big season lies ahead for the defender, arguably a defining one as to whether he proves himself to be worthy and capable at the top level, or whether a club like Spurs and their ambitions is just a step too far.
Walker-Peters should aim for…