A player in his prime
Walker’s development since his breakthrough at Sheffield United in 2009 has been constant. He unexpectedly found himself in the Blades team for the final seven matches of the 2008-09 season and became the youngest player in the Club’s history to play at Wembley when he appeared in the Championship Playoff final.
His loan spells at Northampton, QPR and Aston Villa saw him develop physically, and when he became a regular at Spurs his improvement was rapid, underlined by his two appearances in the PFA Team of the Year (2011-12 and 2016-17) and his Young Player of the Year award (2012).
Now, at 27, he’s an England regular and arguably the most dynamic right-back in the English top flight. He’s in what should be the prime of his career and Pep Guardiola will be keen to ensure he continues to develop during his peak years.
One of the hallmarks of Guardiola’s Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides was the attacking ability of his full-backs.
He doesn’t just want them to defend – they must be able to provide quality in the final third, too.
Walker has demonstrated he fits the bill. Under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino, a fine man-manager with a proven track record of improving players, he has become one of the best attacking full-backs in the Premier League.
Guardiola will no doubt encourage him to continue going forward and create chances for City’s forwards.
He arrives at City just in time to join the travelling party for City’s pre-season tour of the USA, meaning Guardiola can now spend 10 days with his new recruit in an intensive environment.
The team will eat, sleep and train together every day, with Guardiola set to use the tour to work on tactical innovations on the training field that will then be experimented with in games against Manchester United, Real Madrid and Walker’s former Club Tottenham.
It’s the ideal scenario for Walker. When the team returns to Manchester, he will have integrated into squad and Guardiola’s ideas and expectations will be much clearer.
Replacing a Club legend
Filling a Club’s legend’s boots is never an easy task – but that’s exactly what Walker must do.
Pablo Zabaleta spent nine hugely successful years at City before leaving this summer to join West Ham on a free transfer. The reception he got at his last home game was proof of the respect the City fans have for the Argentine.
Now it’s time for Walker to assume the responsibility of being City’s right-back. If he shows just half of the desire and hard work Zabaleta did at City, he will do just fine.