Squad Analysis #2 - Kyle Walker

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Second season syndrome is regularly a condition that recently promoted teams are diagnosed with. Having staved off the threat of relegation for the first season in the Premier League, clubs find it that bit harder to to secure their top flight status after a successful debut campaign. However, it's not just football clubs that suffer from that particular ailment, with Tottenham Hotspur right-back Kyle Walker experiencing somewhat of a personal dip in form in his second full year at White Hart Lane.

Walker signed for Spurs in 2009 along with then Sheffield United teammate Kyle Naughton, with the former the defender showing more promise according to the Blades supporters. He remained at Bramall Lane that season before a loan stints with both Queen's Park Rangers and Aston Villa for the 2010/11 campaign, impressing and winning a whole host of admirers.

Showcasing his ability at the European U-21 Championship in the summer of 2011, being dubbed the 'Right-Footed Roberto Carlos' in the Spanish press as a result of his ability to support the attack and fully utilise his blistering pace, it wasn't a surprise to see many a supporter call on the now 22-year-old to replace the technically brilliant, but ultimately slow, Vedran Corluka at right-back.

A successful year with Spurs saw him heralded as the future of England's defence with many anticipating him to usurp Glen Johnson in the starting XI. Yet, despite a summer of rest regardless of his call up to the Team GB Olympic Squad, Walker has gone through this year with his performances evidently dropping.

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As the stats show, Walker's performances have clearly dropped over the course of this season. Granted, last year the right-back played 3230 minutes compared to the 2440 he has this year, a difference of 790 minutes - a little under nine games less at the time of writing.

However, the most telling of the above stats show that Walker has made five defensive errors already this year with eight Premier League games remaining, compared to the two last season, a difference of the Spurs man making an error every 1,615 minutes compared to the 488 this year.

His tackles won percentage has also dropped from 83.33% to 78.95%, pointing to his dip in ability to tackle, with the right-back making a challenge every 43 minutes compared to the 34 of last season, with Walker making a total of 96 tackles during the 2011/12 season, with the 57 made this year a dip in 39. At this point in the campaign, Walker will have to make another 4.875 tackles per game just to match last seasons' total.

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In possession, Walker's stats improve somewhat, having suffered a loss possession only 23 times this season compared to the 45 last year, with 106 minutes per loss of possession an improvement of the 72 minutes over the last two years.

However, the England international has won possession just 81 times in the defensive third compared to the 146 times last season, further reinforcing the drop in tackles between the two campaigns.

Walker may've been dispossessed fewer times this campaign - 23 to 27 - but with eight games remaining, chances are the figure will rise higher, with him being dispossessed 0.76 times per game compared to the 0.72 last season.

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Moving onto his passing stats, it's vital for the modern day right-back to push forward and support the attack, meaning it's crucial that he can link up with the players operating in midfield. With Walker, he formed a good partnership with Aaron Lennon last season and it had been expected that the same would be rekindled again this year.

Yet, while Walker's pass completion is 1% higher this season, the change in passing direction is particularly telling. His passing to the right has decreased 19% - from 24% to 5% - while his passes to the left have increased substantially by 25% - from 21% to 46%.

With the increase in passes to the left, it highlights two particularly interesting facets in the change to his game. 1) The onus on ball retention means he is expected to pass the ball across the defence, naturally from right to left and 2) The change in system that Andre Villas-Boas has looked to implement.

Looking to move from a 4-4-1-1 under Harry Redknapp to a 4-2-3-1, Lennon is now operating higher up the pitch to support the midfield trio behind the striker. As such, with less cover and the winger now tucked in tighter, Lennon has become less of an outlet to Walker.

With that in mind, it's become much more likely that Walker looks to play the ball into the 'Doppel Sechs' pairing of Mousa Dembele or, initially, Sandro, before Scott Parker returned to the starting XI as a result of his injury.

Either way, while his passing stats may be better, defensively Walker has taken a backwards step with regards to improvement. The potential is still there, and one has to be quick to point out that at 22 time is on his side, but with the change in system and formation, it's no surprise to have seen his stats worsen from this season to last.

[The stats do not include the game with Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday March 30th]

 

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