They are the same age, the same height, the same nationality and play in the same position but do they pose the same threat to opposition teams?
In their two seasons together at Tottenham, Kieran Trippier was very much the understudy but since then a lot has changed. Trippier has cemented himself as Tottenham’s first-choice right back and has taken the right-wing-back spot in Gareth Southgate’s England side, arguably at the expense of Kyle Walker, who played as one of three central defenders in the World Cup.
Kyle Walker numbers
When you think of Kyle Walker in an attacking sense, you think of an athlete, who runs down the wing or even underlaps, breaking into the centre of the park. What you rarely imagine him doing is putting crosses into the box, and the stats back this up.
According to whoscored.com, Walker has averaged just 0.1 crosses per game in his 21(2) Premier League appearances this season. This is an extremely low average: even Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta who is hardly considered as an offensive full-back manages an average of 0.7 crosses per game.
This statistic can only be put down to Pep Guardiola’s instructions, as Man City’s width this season has come from wingers Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, who both play on the side of their stronger foot. Walker himself has admitted that if he were to bomb down the wing he would only be getting in Sterling’s way.
Instead, Walker’s role is to stick close to the centre-backs and midfield pivot Fernandinho, recycling possession in the hope of drawing out the opposition. When City move the ball forward, Walker must be alert to the position of the opposition’s winger, in case the opposition break and launch a counter-attack down his flank.
Kyle Walker’s heatmap for this season (credit: Wyscout)
Interestingly these instructions don’t apply to Benjamin Mendy, who takes up more advanced positions on the left-hand side and contributes 1.2 crosses per game, a much more typical average for a full-back at a leading club.
It’s for these reasons that one area where Walker’s stats do compare favourably with Trippier’s is the number of passes per game. Walker makes 71 passes per game compared to Trippier’s 56 and he is more accurate as well. Walker’s pass success rate is 89.5%, higher than Trippier’s 78.2. This is only to be expected, however, considering that a lot of the time, Walker will be exchanging short passes with his fellow defenders.
Kieran Trippier numbers
Trippier’s 2.1 crosses per game leave him only second to Everton’s Lucas Digne (2.6) in the Premier League this season. Trippier also has an impressive rate of 1.7 key passes per game, which ranks him third behind Digne (1.9) and Southampton’s Matthew Targett (1.8) when compared to other Premier League full-backs.
Again, managerial instructions play a role. Trippier positions himself very high up the touchline on the right-flank, waiting for the likes of Jan Vertonghen to pick him out with long cross-field balls. Pochettino clearly sees Trippier as a primarily attacking asset, someone who can make the difference in the final third as he has shown with his four assists in all competitions for Spurs this season.
Kieran Trippier’s heatmap for this season (credit: Wyscout)
Walker, on the other hand, has been teased by City’s goalkeeper Ederson who now has two assists this season to Walker’s one.
As the stats show, there is no doubt as to which player will be giving opposition managers headaches. Walker showed in his Tottenham days that he can be an attacking threat but with his more conservative role under Pep Guardiola, he simply isn’t given the freedom to showcase that aspect of his game. This will only make it harder for him to compete with Trippier for his favoured right-wing-back spot for England in those games in which Southgate opts to play a back five.
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