Cartilage Free Captain is once again reviewing each of Spurs' first team players and evaluating their 2015-16 season. The series continues today with Tottenham Hotspur right back Kyle Walker.
Cards: 7 yellow cards, zero red cards
Halloween Pranks: Many
What went right?
The 2015-16 season commenced with question marks concerning Tottenham Hotspur's incumbent right-back. Outside of his 2011-12 inaugural campaign, this season would be Kyle Walker's most important with the club. The 2011-12 PFA Young Player of the year, once full of promise, had devolved into an untrustworthy and inconsistent option in the backline. Whether it be injuries or a run of ghastly defending throughout the 2014-15 campaign, Kyle Walker's future seemed more uncertain than ever at White Hart Lane.
Yet Spurs longest serving first team player came through in a big way this term. Part of the reason why Walker can frustrate supporters so much is because he is so damn athletic. In this regard, collective expectations can sometimes be unreasonably inflated for him. The man's speed down the right flank is unrivaled — especially for a right-back —and his fitness is supreme too. For as often as he makes marathon sprints forward, Walker is almost always able to retrace those runs and recover back into position when needed.
In a system that provides little natural width, it is paramount that outside backs constantly get forward and challenge the opposition from an attacking standpoint. With Walker's pace and stamina he is theoretically perfect for this system. This year he proved that, with a campaign full of health, he can thrive under Pochettino.
The other thing that Walker improved upon this year was that he seemed to play within himself more. He cut down significantly on errant forty yard digs and it felt like he kept the ball more. While still not the most pinpoint of crossers, his decision-making was such that he either whipped the ball in at an opportune time, or was able to recycle possession for the team.
What went wrong?
At twenty-five going on twenty-six, it wasn't that much went wrong for Kyle Walker this season, its just that there are deficiencies in his game where he is never going to completely excel. Kyle Walker's final ball has never been heralded, nor has his touch within tight spaces. These are two things that hold him back from being absolutely world class.
Walker can find space often, but what does he do with the ball when it is at his feet? Not entirely hapless, supporters just wish that he could find the late runner through the box more often, or show greater precision in his driven crosses and find teammates heads as they flood into penalty area.
In terms of eliminating defenders when there isn't an expanse of space behind, he is also maladroit. Walker can stifle a switch of play with a poor first touch and, if a cross isn't immediately on, he doesn't offer much in terms of running at defenders when tight to the end-line.
Kyle Walker cemented his place as the first choice option in a highly successful Tottenham Hotspur team this season. Kieran Trippier, Walker's closest rival, doesn't look to pose a genuine threat to him, so in many ways it was a job well done by the Spurs veteran.
Yes he can be boneheaded at times, frustrating in the attack, and out of position in defense, but how many other right-backs in the Premier League would you prefer to play for Spurs in Poche's system? The yards that he covers per game is insane and his presence on the pitch causes opponents fits. When he is buzzing, Walker can occupy the entirety of the right flank and disrupt both the left wingers and the left-backs from their assigned responsibilities.
Kyle Walker is an exciting, if limited, player. Love him for what he is and don't tear him apart for what he is not. Health will be key for him going forward. But if Pochettino continues his rotation and gives Walker spells throughout the season, we can hopefully expect similar production from the right back position for the next few years to come.
Ranking: 4 Chirpys