Anton has performed well on loan in Atlanta, on the whole. He got off to a rocky start when he appeared as a substitute in the team’s inaugural match, losing his man shortly after appearing at CB and scoring an own goal that decided the game in the waning minutes. But it’s been the last month or so where Walkes has started to establish himself in Atlanta’s starting XI. The club’s Argentian manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino, formerly of Barcelona and the Argentina national team, inserted Walkes at right back for the team’s June 24 match against the Colorado Rapids. Atlanta won that game with a clean sheet, and Walkes hasn’t looked back, cementing himself as Atlanta’s first-team right back. Atlanta is still yet to lose in the league with Walkes playing at right back, and the team has kept three clean sheets in his five league starts. Interestingly, the team has lost every game in which he’s started or appeared at CB. (He’s only started at CB once in a cup match where the team was heavily rotated, and appeared at CB twice in league play after an Atlanta sending off.)
So what does this loan extension mean for Walkes? It’s tough to tell if it has any impact. He was interviewed about two months ago by Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who reported then that the loan was for the full MLS season, according to Walkes himself. So this is hardly news for the player or the clubs involved.
Walkes loan with #atlutd is for season, not 6 months as some said— Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC) June 6, 2017
From this, we can conclude that nothing has changed with regards to Walkes’s status at Spurs since the loan was agreed to in early 2017 — his loan was always going to be for the entirety of the MLS season. But the problem is the timing and the misalignment of the MLS schedule with that of Spurs. Walkes will return to Spurs just prior to the winter transfer window opening, coming off a full season and in need of rest. Also, his position has effectively changed in Atlanta. If one of the added benefits of this particular loan was to learn the CB position under a fellow Argentine and Bielsista in Martino, well, it simply hasn’t happened. And honestly, as someone who has seen him every time he’s played, he looks out of his depth at CB. He’s a step slow which is caused by his trouble reading and anticipating the game from that central position. On the right, there’s more structure around him, and he’s able to use his physical traits more effectively.
The good news is that Walkes is getting playing time and he’s playing well. While many Atlanta fans will tell you he struggles to cross and make himself useful in the attacking third, that’s something you’d expect from a natural central player. He’s contributing to a winning team and playing in pressure situations in front of home attendances of 45,000+. He even scored a game-winning goal from a set piece, his first as a professional.
We will discover more about his future at Spurs after he’s evaluated by Mauricio Pochettino, John McDermott, and Co. following the MLS season, but as a 20-year old already, he still has a long, long way to go before breaking into a top-20 club in the world like Spurs. Regardless, the loan has been successful so far and has set Walkes up well for his next career move — whatever that entails.