This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Tottenham Hotspur have no excuse not to give Kyle Walker-Peters a chance.
The right-back has been nearing his breakthrough at Spurs for a couple of seasons now but he still has a mere 19 first-team appearances under his belt.
Now, though, there is an opening.
Kieran Trippier has been sold to Atletico Madrid for a fee of £20m and manager Mauricio Pochettino’s preferred replacement, Juan Foyth, sustained a serious-looking injury against Bayern Munich in a pre-season friendly on Wednesday.
Serge Aurier, the other option, has been sidelined after sustaining a hand injury on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations and has not yet made an appearance in pre-season.
The solution, then, is to play Walker-Peters.
Now of course, the transfer window remains open, and Spurs could well buy a specialist right-back in the next week and play him in the league opener against Aston Villa but, at this point, that seems unlikely. The persistent links are instead with Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon – a left-sided full-back who can also play on the wing – and Real Betis’ Giovani Lo Celso, a playmaker.
The chink of light is there, then, for Pochettino to have no other excuse but to pick the 22-year-old.
Walker-Peters has been here before, actually, and started the opening game of the 2017/18 campaign after Kyle Walker was sold to Manchester City. He won the Man of the Match award as Spurs beat Newcastle United at St James’ Park but missed the next five games, played eight minutes against Huddersfield Town and made one more Premier League appearance, on the final day, in the 5-4 win over Leicester City.
The following season saw him make six Premier League appearances but, again, it was a story of frustration, as he played in fits and starts. He made two outings in December, one in February, one in March, one in April and one in May. Four of those were starts, the other two just cameos.
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It feels like a make-or-break season for Walker-Peters, then, as he bids to finally become a proper first-team player, instead of being a rotation option off the bench.
Spurs’ stubborn refusal to buy a replacement for Trippier has opened up an opportunity and, coupled with Foyth and Aurier’s fitness woes, it would be a shock to see any other player starting at right-back against Villa.
Of course, Eric Dier is versatile and could play there; so too could Moussa Sissoko.
But to see one of those two there, instead of the specialist in the position, would surely be the death knell for Walker-Peters’ Spurs career.