Cartilage Free Captain is reviewing each of Spurs' first team players and evaluating their season. The series continues today with Tottenham Hotspur fullback Kyle Walker.
League Matches missed due to injury: 22
Minutes played: 1,757
What went right?
Honestly? Not a whole lot. For much of the early part of the season, Tottenham struggled while playing Eric Dier and Kyle Naughton at right back. Much of the talk around the team, at least on this site, centered around how much better we would be once Walker returned. Well, Walker finally made his season debut for Spurs on December 11, 2014 in the Europa League against Besiktas; he looked decidedly average, or like a man who hadn't played competitive football in almost nine months. Walker didn't really look good until Tottenham beat Chelsea 5-3, but almost everyone looked great in that game, so maybe that's not much of an accomplishment. Despite missing 22 total league matches and another 10 or so cup matches this year, Walker played when he was fit and Tottenham were better for it. During the four months where Walker featured regularly in the league, Spurs won ten league matches, lost three, and drew two. So, basically, Walker's return coincided with some of the best form Tottenham had all season.
What went wrong?
While Spurs were winning matches with Walker in the side, Walker didn't really look like himself. I'm hesitant to directly link Walker's return to Spurs good form just because Kyle looked so mediocre and sometimes even bad in those matches. It seemed pretty clear that Walker had lost a yard of pace and that small fraction cost him a lot in his defensive duties. He was no longer able to get back and cover the way he has in previous seasons and in many ways, he looked to have regressed all the way back to the form he displayed when he initially broke into the Tottenham team, not the form he displayed in recent seasons, when he was one of our best defenders. Also, there were the injuries. Injuries on top of injuries. Fortunately, they all kind of appear to be bad luck and not actually related to a chronic problem. Hopefully with a long offseason to rest and recuperate and a full pre-season Walker will be back to normal.
What was most worrying, however, was the decision-making. Poor back passes, poor square passes, almost killing Hugo Lloris, etc. All these things were a worrying return to the derptastic version of Kyle Walker many had believed long gone.
There will be a lot of debate, I imagine, about replacing Walker this summer. At the very least bringing in some serious competition for him (like Spurs did last summer with Danny Rose and Ben Davies) might be a worthwhile pursuit. For the player himself, Walker just needs to rehab and be fit and ready to go once training camp starts in July. If he can do that, then a return to form isn't out of the question. Some might worry about the lost pace, but at only 25-years old, I think that's probably more due to not being fully 100% than it was a permanent thing. If he's healthy, the pace is still there and we bring in some competition (other than DeAndre Yedlin), then Walker should be much improved next season.
Grade: 2.5 Chirpys