I’ve been following Tottenham since the 2009-10 season. From memory, these are the players I’ve seen feature at right back for us in that time:
- Vedran Corluka
- Younes Kaboul
- Alan Hutton
- Kyle Naughton
- Vlad Chiriches
- Eric Dier
- Kieran Trippier
- Kyle Walker
Look at that list: Is there a single person there that is even close to Walker’s quality? Corluka was smart and wouldn’t make dumb mental mistakes leading to goals. But he was incredibly slow and could never even dream of playing in a system as demanding of fullbacks as Mauricio Pochettino’s. Younes Kaboul, Vlad the Lad, and Eric Dier are not right backs. Kyle Naughton and Kieran Trippier are midtable Premier League caliber, but not good enough for a team with Champions League ambitions.
Expand the list: Think of Premier League right backs near Walker’s caliber. Liverpool’s Nathan Clyne is excellent. Outside of that, no one in the top six has right backs anywhere near Walker’s standard. Seamus Coleman is good, but coming off a bad injury and is not nearly as consistent as Walker. Sam Byram’s career seems to have stalled a bit at West Ham, though he was once thought of as a promising prospect.
Heck, let’s push the point further: The first choice right backs for the remaining sides in this year’s Champions League are Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Dani Alves (Juventus), Juanfran (Atletico), and Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid). Of the four, two are way out of our league and two are on the wrong sides of their prime and are also still way out of our league.
My point in all of this is simple: If we’re going to sell Kyle Walker this summer, we better know for damn sure who our replacement will be. And it can’t be a decent player like Adam Smith, as much as I like Smith. Walker’s pace, power, and under-rated defensive smarts are almost impossible to replace.
Even a team with a good scouting and analytics program would likely struggle to replace Walker. Spurs have neither. Our scouting strategy appears to be “hey, what’s the name of that dude from that bottom-half club who played well against us?” To put it starkly, the thought of trying to replace Walker terrifies me. What do y’all think? Am I over-rating Walker? Are there possible replacements out there I’m not thinking of?
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