Having already swooped for goalkeeper Ederson and midfielder Bernardo Silva this summer, Manchester City yesterday confirmed the signing of Tottenham Hotspur defender Kyle Walker for a reported fee worth an initial £45 million, plus an additional £5 million in add-ons.
After penning a five-year contract at the Etihad, the 27-year-old summed up what he’ll bring to the City starting lineup:
“Attacking is a big part of my game. I’m a defender first and foremost but if I can give something going forward it’s going to give a positive to the team, an extra edge and hopefully we can bring teams down. I watched Zabaleta countless times on YouTube because his timing of runs into the box was fantastic and it’s something to get to my game. With my pace, if I can time my runs as well I don’t think anyone can stop me. I’m all about assists, I’m not really greedy, I don’t want to score. As long as I set people up and they get the goals that’s all I care about.”
Born in Sheffield, Walker joined Sheffield United’s youth set-up at the age of seven and by 2008 was a regular in the club’s reserve side.
Walker was sent out on loan to League One outfit Northampton Town in November 2008, where he made nine league appearances before returning to Bramall Lane.
He was handed his Blades debut in an FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient in January 2009, and would make a further six appearances in all competitions over the rest of the season.
In that short period, Walker had done enough to catch the eye of Tottenham Hotspur and they signed Walker and team-mate Kyle Naughton for a combined fee worth around £9 million in July 2009.
Walker was sent back to Sheffield United on loan for the 2009/10 season, while he took in further loan spells at Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa before establishing himself as Spurs’ first choice right back during the 2011/12 campaign.
Indeed, Walker was named PFA Young Player of the Year in April 2012, registering two goals and one assist over 37 league matches.
Over recent seasons, Walker has been a key part of Spurs’ success, producing two goals and 20 assists over the last five campaigns, and ended his White Hart Lane career with 229 appearances in all competitions.
Last season, a total of six FPL assists was more than any defender in the top-flight.
After representing England at U19 and U21 levels, Walker made his senior debut as a substitute in a 1-0 friendly win over Spain in November 2011.
He has currently been awarded 27 caps for his country, registering five assists.
After releasing Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta this summer, strengthening the full-back areas was always going to be Pep Guardiola’s main priority this summer.
In Walker, City look to have signed a player who looks tailor-made to be a huge success at the Etihad, with the England international’s pace and athleticism expected to add another dimension to the City attack.
Guardiola generally favoured either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 formation last season, although he did occasionally experiment with a three-man defence.
Walker looks ideally suited to City’s fluid right-back role, while he is also equipped to shine at wing-back – a position where out-and-out wingers such as Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane lacked the defensive qualities to excel.
While Aleksandar Kolarov remains at the club, Monaco defender Benjamin Mendy appears likely to sign over the next few days, and is expected to be City’s first-choice left-back.
Unless City sign another player to provide competition for Walker at right-back, Fernandinho looks set to provide cover, with youngster Pablo Maffeo perhaps another alternative.
Looking at Walker’s underlying statistics from last season, he averaged a key pass every 76.62 minutes and a shot every 144.72 minutes.
During his time at Spurs, he consistently proved he can offer a significant threat down the right flank, and given the calibre of attacking player he’ll be playing alongside, his game should only develop further.
While Guardiola at times last season used his full-backs as extra midfield players, or “inverted full-backs,” to create more passing angles and to help prevent counter-attacks, Walker’s strengths are perhaps more suited to those of a conventional full-back.
Walker’s speed in transition will be very useful if Guardiola does choose to use the England international in that inverted position, although it could possibly hinder his chances of creating opportunities.
The key to City improving at the back will be the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany.
Upon the Belgian’s return towards the end of last season, City managed to register four clean sheets in the eight matches he started.
Indeed, the number of shots Guardiola’s men conceded dropped from 8.2 per match prior to Gameweek 33 to 7.1 following Kompany’s return to the starting XI.
The skipper’s leadership and organisational skills can’t be underestimated, particularly with Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones both struggling when the Belgian is absent.
Only Chelsea (178) conceded fewer shots inside the box than City (181) over the course of the season though, so if Ederson can offer an upgrade of Claudio Bravo and the departed Willy Caballero in goal, the outlook for the Citizens’ rearguard could look a whole lot brighter.
City’s start to the season (bha EVE bou LIV wat CPL) is kind enough, so Walker has the platform to deliver early, as he did last term.
The England international has been priced at 6.5 in Fantasy Premier League (9.5 in Sky Sports) – slightly more expensive than Kompany at 6.0.
Fantasy managers do have a wealth of premium options to choose from in defence, though, meaning that Walker could, at least initially, struggle to attract significant investment. In saying that, he’s already been acquired by 14.6% of FPL managers, making him the seventh most popular defender in the game
City’s pre-season matches will provide some clues as to how Guardiola is looking to use Walker, and if he is encouraged to bomb down the right flank and get to the byline, as he was at Spurs, he may well be worth that lofty price tag.
But with Mendy also likely to come under consideration given he produced five assists in 24 league starts last season, the uncertainty over who will be the better option could be another reason to avoid the City defence over the opening few weeks.
After missing out on Dani Alves, it was crucial that City managed to secure the services of Walker.
The 27-year-old has the potential to shore up what was a problem position last term and help add yet another facet to the City attack.
Whether that will place him among the leading premium assets remains to be seen, but if handed the licence to attack, Walker looks certain to be a key factor in our seasons.
But with a chunky price tag, Walker’s arrival at the Etihad is more likely to rouse interest in the situation back at White Hart Lane.
Kieran Trippier – priced at 5.5 and 8.1 in Sky Sports – could now be promoted to first choice right-back for Spurs, although Mauricio Pochettino is expected to battle for Porto defender Ricardo Pereira.
Ultimately then, Walker’s move may be significant purely due to what he leaves behind at White Hart Lane.