The Premier League season concluded over the weekend with Tottenham Hotspur securing third place and a spot in next season’s Champions League after an unexpectedly eventful 5-4 victory over 2015/16 champions Leicester City.
Harry Kane netted a brace, though it wasn’t enough to overhaul Golden Boot winner Mohamed Salah, as did Erik Lamela, with an own goal coming from Foxes’ left-back Christian Fuchs.
Despite the many talking points arising from Tottenham’s final game at Wembley, most of which centre on manager Mauricio Pochettino’s future and whether Daniel Levy will take the next step with the current project, there was one player that stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
There alone on his plinth, clutching his second Man of the Match award in as many Premier League starts, was Kyle Walker-Peters.
Providing two assists, the young England right-back was fantastic and looked a natural at Premier League level, rarely putting a foot out of place.
Having signed a new long-term contract this week, it begs the question: Is Kyle Walker-Peters the right back Spurs have lacked this season?
Kyle Walker II
Walker-Peters shares the same name with his Tottenham predecessor, Kyle Walker, which naturally begs comparisons, but the similarities don’t end there.
Jermaine Jenas told BBC Radio 5 Live that Spurs are a “worse team than last year,” due to the loss of Walker and Danny Rose’s dynamic element and he’s entirely justified to say so.
Whilst Kieran Trippier has improved drastically since Pochettino began coaching him, he doesn’t offer the same qualities Walker did. For instance, Trippier provided fewer assists than the Manchester City right back and completed half as many take-ons as his former teammate in 2017/18.
The key issue is that Trippier doesn’t boast pace, while Walker-Peters does. Spurs have lacked dynamism in their attack, often playing slow and lateral football, looking to cross from deep as their current fullbacks simply aren’t as quick.
None of the above seemed relevant in their final day victory over Leicester. Irrespective of question marks looming over their defending, going forwards Spurs were fluid, dynamic and moved the ball at pace.
This was largely possible due to the advanced positions occupied by their fullbacks, Walker-Peters and Rose. They provided options in the final third, particularly Walker-Peters, who looked to get into the box and beyond Leicester’s deep defensive line.
Walker-Peters had 82 touches overall, more than any other player, with his heat-map demonstrating that a majority of those came in Leicester’s half.
One of the key aspects of Walker-Peters’ performance was the dynamic element he offered the team, completing four dribbles. By comparison, Trippier failed to attempt any in Spurs’ 1-0 victory over Newcastle during the week, which secured their spot in next season’s Champions League.
As a young player, you’re always keen to demonstrate desire, energy and commitment and it’s this that epitomised Walker-Peters’ performance. His best contribution, arguably, was his assist for Lamela’s second goal.
With Demarai Gray seemingly able to deal with the loose ball at the edge of his box, Walker-Peters chased him down, put him under pressure and managed to poke the ball across to the Argentine, who tapped in to make it 4-3. Trippier, by contrast, simply doesn’t have the physical capabilities to make such a cross.
Moreover, it’s not only in attack that Walker-Peters’ speed makes a difference. Spurs’ defence hasn’t been as impressive as seasons gone by and one of the reasons for which has been their lack of pace.
Walker-Peters will make mistakes, fact, but his speed can compensate for being out of position. He’s able to track back diligently and make recovery runs if someone does manage to get in behind him.
A big summer
With Trippier and Serge Aurier both seemingly ahead of the young Englishman in the pecking order, Walker-Peters has a big summer looming to make an impression on his manager.
The 21-year-old won the Man of the Match award in Spurs’ first and last games of the season, making just one other Premier League appearance throughout the campaign.
Such consistent displays so far apart hints at his quality and bright future and he’s certainly one to watch ahead of the 2018/19 season.
Who should Spurs pick as their right back? If you think they need to sign somebody else, let us know who in the comments section below.