Kyle Walker’s understated return to form

Kyle Walker appeared in less than half of Tottenham's Premier League fixtures last season due to injury, but the England international's return to full fitness has seen him rediscover his best form for three years.

The 2011/12 campaign saw a then 22-year-old Walker bag the PFA Young Player of the Year award, but a string of injuries coupled with a lack of form lead to many questioning whether Spurs had already seen the best of the Sheffield-born full-back. 

Walker has started and finished all but one of Tottenham's 12 league outings so far this season, and the 25-year-old's astute performance in the 1-1 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates last Sunday typified his impressive return to form this season.

The former Sheffield United man won all four of his aerial duels, more than any player on either side, an impressive return considering the issues Spurs had with dealing with set pieces and crosses throughout the second half. 

Walker's threat going forward is often seen as his main asset as a full-back, but the improvement to his defensive performance with time under Mauricio Pochettino has been remarkable. 

Despite making three less appearances this season than he managed in the entirety of last campaign, Walker has made four more interceptions (37) and won four more tackles (33) in 1071 minutes of football in comparison to the 1306 minutes he managed last time out.

The England international has also shown vast improvement in the air, registering an improved aerial duels win percentage of 76.96% this season compared to last season's return of just 51.02%.

Both Walker and Danny Rose played starring roles in Tottenham's sterling performance in the north London derby, and a full pre-season with Pochettino appears to have had a similarly positive effect on Walker as it did for Rose last season. 

The summer addition of Kieran Trippier from Burnley also looks to have had a positive effect on Walker's form, much like the arrival of Ben Davies from Swansea did for Rose last time out.

While the renewed solidity down the right-side of Tottenham's team owes largely to the tenacious, hard-working Erik Lamela, the presence of a rejuvenated Walker has nullified many an opposing winger this season, Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez being a prime example. 

The Chilean maestro terrorised Manchester United in their 3-0 defeat at the Emirates in October and has been one of Arsenal's top performers this season with six goals in 12 appearances, but the former Barcelona man was non-existent for the majority of Tottenham's visit. 

Lamela's role in Walker's rejuvenation cannot be underestimated. The Argentine has won 21 tackles in 11 league appearances this season, just three less than defensive midfielder Eric Dier and 20 more than fellow winger Nacer Chadli, who has made just one successful challenge in his nine Premier League outings.

Tottenham have conceded just 10 goals in the Premier League so far this season and boast the fourth best defensive record in the top flight, with only Manchester United (eight) and Arsenal and Manchester City (nine) shipping fewer goals. 

While the centre-back pairing of Belgian duo Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen has received much of the praise for Spurs' newfound defensive solidity, the contributions of the full-backs have been arguably as pivotal. 

Consistency is serving the Lilywhites well this season, and for a team that conceded as many goals as a relegated Burnley side last season (53) and still managed a fifth place finish, a successful top four challenge should be a realistic prospect should Spurs maintain the defensive soundness they have demonstrated in the first dozen games of the season.

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