Kyle Walker might not be the best right back in the Premier League. Though, he’s definitely in the conversation. And he’s certainly one of the more dynamic fullbacks in Europe. However, Kyle Walker is the best right back at Tottenham. Rather, he was until Tottenham officially confirmed his move to Manchester City Friday morning.
And you know what? Good for him. He deserved his big payday. But because of Daniel Levy’s extremely rigid wage structure, he was never going to get that at Tottenham.
For the longest time, it was Walker’s speed and agility that made up for deficiencies on the defensive end. But under Mauricio Pochettino’s guidance—especially over the past two seasons—Walker improved by leaps and bounds. At 27 years old, the speed and quickness are very much still there. Now he’s simply developed the defensive awareness to go with those qualities. His attacking ability makes him perfect for this newfound obsession with wing backs, which in turn, made him perfect for Pochettino’s system.
But it’s not even about that. It isn’t about said player’s fit within a particular system either. This has more to do with Tottenham’s ever-maddening, never-changing business model, and the supporters who are more than happy to just blindly rationalize along with it.
With the Kyle Walker sale in particular, three issues immediately come to mind. So let’s break them down, point-by-point:
1. Kyle Walker was Tottenham’s first-choice right back. Not only did they become weaker by selling him, they made their direct competition—Manchester City, in this case—much stronger. Moreover, they still haven’t secured a replacement. More on that momentarily. And if Pochettino really did not want him anymore, he should start facing some criticism.
2. The reported fee of £50 million? That’s nothing. That might as well be peanuts to a club like City. And you have to wonder how Tottenham couldn’t have squeezed City for more, considering they missed out on Dani Alves earlier this week. But hey, Daniel Levy is a shrewd business man, right? And don’t give me the ‘But Tottenham needs money for a new stadium!‘ garbage. Joe Lewis, Chairman of Tavistock Group—and who owns Tottenham via ENIC (which is also run by Levy)—is worth $5.7 billion. That’s billion, with a ‘b’. Financially speaking, Tottenham are just fine. They are businessmen, though, and that’s all they care about.
3. More importantly, Kieran Trippier is not—I repeat, not—Kyle Walker. But don’t take my word for it; let’s flesh out those details.
Using Squawka’s Comparison Matrix, and utilizing the per 90 minutes function, I went down the line comparing Walker and Trippier—and guess what? Walker isn’t just good because he’s fast. Not shocking to anyone with half a brain, I know. But Walker is absolutely good, regardless of what the mentions say.
We’re going to start with chances. For all the talk of Trippier’s assists—they each had five, though Walker edged Trips by 2,000-plus PL minutes—the backup still only created about half-a-chance more per 90. I’m willing to bet that production dips once Trippier gets more minutes. Especially if he’s counted on to be the primary wing back rather than the primary fullback in a standard back-four.
Tackles won (1.76 against 2.00) resulted in a negligible difference in favor of Trippier. Though again, it’s important to keep in mind how often Walker played. If you believe Trips is going to be as fresh over the course of a full season with significantly more playing time, I don’t know what to tell you.
Walker was credited with just two (2) defensive errors all season while tallying 2,700-plus PL minutes. Just two (redacted) errors. Trips had zero (0)… in just under 600 minutes. Undoubtedly solid, but an unbelievably small sample. It seems a bit shortsighted to assume Trippier won’t be exposed a little more once his playing time increases.
Walker intercepts more passes, makes significantly more clearances, loses less tackles, is far superior in the air (1.93 aerial duels won to 0.46) and performs many more successful take-ons (because Trippier doesn’t perform any). Or at least, he didn’t last season. Lastly, Walker won a far greater percentage of his duels (54.2 to 42 percent).
Simply, Trippier is not dynamic enough going forward—period. He is an okay-to-solid fullback; a fine back-up option to have. He’s someone who can be counted on to fill in from time to time. But that is it. He should not be the first-choice right back for a team like Tottenham Hotspur. A team that, you know, finished second in the Premier League just last season.
If Kyle Walker wanted to leave, that’s fine. If he just wanted his big payday, that’s more than understandable. But my goodness, Tottenham supporters, please do not attempt to rationalize this as a good deal for Spurs. Who cares if he ends up not fitting in with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City? His departure immediately makes Tottenham weaker while simultaneously making City stronger. Who cares about the fee? And what does it matter if Tottenham—err, Daniel Levy—plays hardball (aka is a cheapskate) in attempting to replace him? Furthermore, what if he flat-out fails to replace him? It wouldn’t be the first time.
What are you going to say if/when Danny Rose gets sold—that Ben Davies can slot right in? That Ben Davies is just as good going forward and comparable defensively? Please, don’t be so ridiculous. Or what about Eric Dier—he’s expendable, right? I swear, this reminds me of when Harry Kane got injured and fans kept saying it was “a blessing in disguise.” Just as Tottenham missed Kane when he wasn’t in the squad, they will miss Walker.
A team that finishes second in England is supposed to make their starting XI stronger, not weaker. Tottenham has done the latter. When will it end? When will some stop accepting that everything their particular club does must be right? That’s not a sensible logical path to subscribe to.
Kyle Walker is a good, arguably great defender. He is an extremely dynamic fullback, and one who was essential to Tottenham’s surge over these past two seasons. He’s not just good because he’s fast. That’s a simple-minded, shortsighted and downright foolish line of thought to believe. And he’s not not good just because Tottenham got £50 million for him, or because Trippier had some assists last season.
He’s good because he is. And at the moment, Tottenham are far worse off without him.