Manchester City may have paid the price for the most expensive defender in history, but more is needed to shore up the gaps in Pep Guadiola’s rear-guard
Kyle Walker has become the most expensive defender in the history of football. The England full-back joined Manchester City from Tottenham for a fee of around $64 million, the most spent ever for a member of a backline. This would mean almost certainly that City has began to solve its defensive issues, the real problem last season during the first term under Pep Guardiola, yet a lot of doubts remain.
Walker is a very solid, young, powerful, pacy right-back. Under Mauricio Pochettino the Englishman has developed into one of the best in his position, in an era when solid, consistent full-backs have almost disappeared. This is one of the reasons his fee was so high. Very few have shown his form over the past two seasons.
Pochettino’s influence has been crucial. The Argentinian manager gives an integral role to his fullbacks, fundamental in his 4-2-3-1 in being able to push up and be ready at the back. He has forged Walker. Guardiola’s idea of football is much more fluid, with a total approach: every player should be able to do everything.
This meant last season the likes of Aleksandar Kolarov had to adapt as centre-backs too, and play further forward in midfield. But with limited success. So either Walker adapts to Guardiola, and does it well, or Guardiola wants someone like Walker, very capable of playing in his position with quality and strength.
This is to be seen. What is without doubt, is that Man City needed a full-back, and a good one too. But it won’t be enough, despite the fee. The Citizens lack solidity in the middle, and at centre-back. John Stones has been just about good enough, Nicolas Otamendi still has to demonstrate that he is worth his fee.
Walker has showed his abilities with Spurs, and will have to do the same at Man City, where defenders seem to take a step back automatically. Ever since Vincent Kompany has been held back by injuries, the Citizens have struggled to recreate that solidity needed for a title challenge. It was Chelsea’s strength last year and Leicester City’s the year before.
— Kyle Walker (@kylewalker2) July 18, 2017
Clearly, Walker is an important addition, but he won’t be enough. We should expect another big investment in the same area of the pitch, at centre-back and probably also at left-back. It’s hard to tell if Guardiola will go for three at the back, with two wing-backs, or with a four-man defence, but either way, the Spanish manager will be targeting another defender to complete his back line. The choice will have to be well considered, as the defenders will have to deliver.
With a reliable backline, Guardiola will be able to give more freedom to his deadly strikers and midfielders, and to develop his passing game as best as possible. Walker is here, now more business is to be done.