We’ve all seen it. Pundits and Twitter managers all lambasting Kyle Walker’s £50 million switch to Manchester City. Whether it is Gary Lineker or some Spurs fan with Kieran Trippier as his picture on Twitter, City has been universally slammed for paying such a large sum of money for Walker.
In reality, Walker was worth as much as City was willing to pay for a player that ticked numerous boxes highly coveted by City boss, Pep Guardiola.
In their pursuit of Walker, City faced an uphill battle. Everyone knows the Premier Leauge is flush with cash and the fact alone has caused player transfers to the England top flight to skyrocket to epic proportions.
City had other factors to contend with. One is the English premium and the other being City were without any recognised fullbacks. In the end, however, City won’t really be bothered by Walker’s price as he’s just what the doctor ordered.
It doesn’t take a PhD in tactics to realise City’s fullbacks just weren’t adequate for the style of play Pep demands. City’s ageing, slow fullbacks of last year were the glaring hole in City’s team. Opposing teams eagerly attacked our wings. Our fullbacks severely limited what Pep could accomplish with the team.
Enter Kyle Walker. Walker’s standout attribute is his pace. That factor alone gives City a new element that pushes the team further. In his very first preseason game, Walker showed exactly why he was worth the money. On several occasions, Marcus Rashford was sent through on goal. Last season he would have easily outpaced the fullback and been one on one with the keeper. Not this time. Not with Kyle Walker. He ran Rashford down with ease and halted the counter attack. Walker so frustrated him that Rashford had to change wings to find success.
Walker’s pace opens up another aspect of City’s play as well. A Guardiola team will relentlessly press the opposing team. With last year’s fullbacks, pressing was an issue. Aware of their lack of pace, they would often time hold back on their pressing, fearing they would be beaten for pace. Having two players on the field not as dedicated to the press leaves gaps and spaces for the opposing team to exploit.
Walker is more than willing to press. As seen in the game against Tottenham, Walker was tenacious in his pressing of Spurs. He forced errant passes on several occasion. And as previously mentioned if he gets beaten, his pace will bail him out. This gives an extra lethality to the City team.
Kyle Walker doesn’t get enough credit for his technical ability. He is capable of good control in tight situations and then finding the open man. Several times this preseason I was impressed just how adept he is with the ball at his feet. Billed as a “pace merchant, ” there is so much more than that to Walker’s game.
Pep wants his fullbacks to attack. The man Walker is replacing, Pablo Zabaleta, was great going forward. The king of the overlap, Zabaleta was always willing to attack. In more recent seasons with his speed and stamina waning, Zabaleta struggled to attack as effectively as he has in the past.
Walker brings boundless energy to City’s right flank. Running up and down the pitch, the whole game is no issue to Walker. His link up play with his forwards has always been impressive, and he is always an option on the wing to dribble past a player or provide a killer pass. Despite what Gary Lineker may think, Walker is a good crosser of the ball as well. Look no further than his service for the tying goal in last season’s game at the Etihad.
Sure, 50 million pounds is a massive amount of money. But it was spent on a player who perfectly fills a need in City’s team. Can you actually put a value on a necessity? It’s like putting a value on the air. You need it; you’ll do anything to get it. That is the Walker situation. City needed him. £50 million? That will be a bargain for how Walker will allow City to evolve.