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By Daniel Grigg
Monday, November 21, 2011
London24’s Tottenham blogger Daniel Grigg looks ahead to Kyle Walker’s reunion with Aston Villa this evening.
There will be a number of players facing their former clubs tonight as Tottenham host Aston Villa, after Brad Friedel and Alan Hutton swapped sides during the summer.
Darren Bent is always in the spotlight when these two sides meet, and Jermaine Jenas is currently on loan in the Midlands – but is therefore ineligible to play this evening.
Of course, one of the reasons why Spurs sold Hutton to Villa was the emergence of Kyle Walker, who proved himself in the Premier League on loan at Villa Park in the second half of last season.
That spell with the Villans has contributed to a meteoric rise in the last 12 months. This time last year Walker was on loan at QPR in the Championship and now, as he prepares for his 14th Tottenham appearance of the season, he is an England international.
Having come on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Spain last week, he then started the 1-0 victory over Sweden – and earned the man of the match award.
At the moment it appears that Walker is battling Glen Johnson for the right-back spot for England – and Johnson proved his value yesterday, getting forward to score the winner for Liverpool against his old team Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The Ex-Factor is always a danger, and tonight it is Walker’s chance to shine. Few would bet against him playing an equally important role in gunning down his former club Aston Villa at White Hart Lane.
It is only November but Walker has already answered nearly all of the pre-season concerns regarding Tottenham’s tricky right-back position.
Now his performance in his first start for the Three Lions against Sweden last week has opened up even more debate as to just how good the youngster from Sheffield could be.
Due to his threat going forward, Walker’s defensive qualities are rarely highlighted, but they had to take precedence last Tuesday – especially in the second half when Fabio Capello’s hosts were sitting on a 1-0 lead.
Had the Wembley clash been heading for a dull and uninspiring goalless draw, the crowd and the manager would certainly have urged Walker on down the flank - but instead it was a game to avoid mistakes and to mop up where needed.
Fortunately, few players are blessed with Walker’s pace, and he uses it so well and so regularly to keep placing himself between the ball carrier and the goal.
Sweden’s attempts at counter-attacking were regularly thwarted by the speed of England’s recovery, even on the couple of occasions when it was the Tottenham full- back himself who had dangerously gifted away possession.
Admittedly, he does that a little too often for comfort, but you wouldn’t want to stifle the creativity of his passing, or his penetrating sprints down the right side of the pitch.
Walker may not be the finished article but what makes him so good is his sharpness. As an opposing winger, once he’s clocked you and marked you, it’s very hard to take the ball around him. And then, even if you do manage that, you have to take advantage pretty quickly because he’s usually right on your tail again.
If we’re being critical, his positioning in the first place is occasionally a problem, particularly when Spurs are under severe pressure.
Fortunately that hasn’t happened much this season but, away at Manchester United, at Newcastle and at times in the second half against Arsenal before his memorable winner, Walker didn’t look as assured as he has done for the rest of the season so far.
Sometimes he gets caught upfield, and sometimes he gets drawn too closely towards his centre-backs, leaving space for the wingers on the outside.
However, against Sweden, he defended in a way which reminded me of a young Ledley King, albeit in a different position - always capable of stealing or blocking the ball with an out-stretched leg, while carrying enough physical presence and enough pace to get back at any attacking player who may have thought he was clear.
Not since Stephen Carr left Tottenham has a Spurs manager had the fortune of a genuinely top-quality right-back, who looks the business both in attack and defence.
As talented as Pascal Chimbonda, Vedran Corluka and Alan Hutton have been, each had frailties and deficiencies which were far more obvious than those in Walker’s game - and he’s yet to complete a full season in the Premier League.