Kyle Walker – Manchester City’s Expensive Plan B

Kyle Walker – Manchester City’s Expensive Plan B

One of the most interesting facts that struck me at the beginning of this transfer window was the number of players who were left without a contract beyond this summer at Manchester City.  Also, more than the number, were the names of the players who were released on a free by City – Bacary Sagna, Jesus Navas, Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, and Willy Cabalero.

Agreed, all of them are aged players who would have found it tough to fit into Pep’s plans. But still most of these players were regular starters a couple of seasons back. It was clear from the start of the transfer window that Pep wanted to refresh the City squad and ensure that he fielded a much younger squad next season.

But a casual glance at that list tells us that City were letting their fulltime full-backs leave this summer. So, it was also clear from that list that Manchester City were going to be in the transfer market for a first-choice right back, and perhaps also a quality left back. Initial rumours that came out of the Etihad were that of a reunion between Dani Alves and Pep Guardiola.

Manchester City were strongly linked with the Juventus player but it was not to be. Either, the rumours were just that – rumours and Pep did not really want an ageing right-back to replace the two he had shown the door to. Or, perhaps there was interest from the club, but the player preferred a move to Paris. Either way, City were not able to sign Alves and were back in the market for a right-back.

City refocused their sights on Kyle Walker from Tottenham, who had been linked with them earlier as well And, on Thursday they signed Walker from Spurs. But the fact that surprised most fans, pundits, and journalists was that Manchester City were paying £50 million for the 27-year old. As I wrote recently, it is not unusual for Premier League teams, especially the top ones, to pay a premium on whatever a player’s value is. But most people reacted to the Walker fee with disbelief, as £50 million plus add-ons for a right back is really over-the-top.

In this post, let us try to see what does Walker bring to Manchester City and which aspects of his game might have prompted his high price.

First and foremost, has City even paid a premium or is £50 million par for course for an experienced Premier League right-back? CIES Observatory’s latest transfer value estimates put Walker’s value at ~£40 million. Similarly, Transfermarkt estimates Walker’s value to be €30 million. So, depending on which value we go with, Manchester City did pay a premium for Walker, although according to CIES, not as huge a premium as most news outlets would have us believe.


Which of Walker’s strengths – other than the slight urgency for their right-back vacancy – have forced Manchester City to pay such a premium. According to CIES, Walker is good at defensive duels, passing and take-ons. He is also good at interceptions and chance creation. WhoScored also believe that Walker is good at duels (esp. aerial), passing, key passes, and ball interception

Starting with interceptions, we find that Walker put in 4.9 interceptions per 90 minutes during the last season, which is almost five interceptions a game. To put it in perspective, Dani Alves put in 4.2 interceptions per 90 minutes. This is one area where Walker was marginally better than Alves.

Walker lags considerably behind Alves, when it comes to Key Passes. Walker put in only 0.4 key passes per 90 minutes – i.e.  Walker enabled a shot in every third game. In comparison, Alves provided 1.1 key passes per 90 minutes. In terms of general passing as well, Alves is much better than Walker, making 59.2 passes per 90 minutes with a 93% accuracy, while Walker put in 44.9 passes per 90 minutes at a 87% accuracy.

In defensive duels, Walker was involved in 4.4 duels per 90 minutes at 71% accuracy, while Dani Alves was involved in 5.9 duels at a 63% accuracy. Here again, Walker is marginally better than Dani. In aerial duels as well, Walker leads as he was involved in 3.4 aerial duels per 90 minutes at 76% accuracy, while Alves was involved in only 2.5 aerial duels per 90 minutes at a 62% accuracy.

In his other reported strength – dribbling, Walker is indeed better than Alves – putting in 4.5 take-ons every 90 minutes at 84% accuracy, while Dani Alves took on opponents 2.6 times at 85% accuracy. Walker is also better than Alves in terms of accelerations (runs) as he put in 1.8 accelerations per 90 minutes, compared to 0.7 for Alves.

Further comparing their crossing abilities, Alves comes out slightly better as he puts in 4 crosses per 90 minutes with 44% accuracy, while Walker also puts in 3.9 crosses per 90 minutes, but with 25% accuracy.

What all these stats tell us is that at least based on the last season’s stats, Walker is marginally better than Alves in defending as well as in taking the ball forward. But Alves is better in terms of his ability to convert his forays forward in to more accurate crosses and more number of key passes. So Alves may not be as great defensively but he knows what to do when he has taken the ball forward.


All these stats paint a picture of a good right-back player, who was perhaps the best right-back in Premier League last season. But in terms of statistics, there is nothing so extraordinary that it can justify Walker’s high price.  May be City paid a premium for Walker’s relatively younger age and Premier League experience and their own urgency in finding a good right-back. Whatever the reason, Manchester City have landed their second-choice right back at a very high price.


Business analysis is my day trade. Analyzing football is my passion.

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2 responses to “Kyle Walker – Manchester City’s Expensive Plan B”

  1. Gerard Stanton says:

    A totally unresearched article with many inaccuracies. Firstly the fee was £45m with potential add-ons as officially mentioned by the club (still a lot I know but why exaggerate?). Secondly City wanted both Walker and Alves as they had released Zabaleta and Sagna – the published intention was that Walker would be first choice with the latter as back up. This was one of the reasons why Alves alledgedly chose PSG. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but at least base it on facts and why jump on a bandwagon of a topic that has already been done to death over the last few days?

  2. Prashant Patel says:

    Apologies if you found it inaccurate Gerard. Most news reports claim the fees to be £50m plus add-ons. Guardian reported £53m and City’s official website didn’t seem to have a price quoted.

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Published by EPL Index
Updated: 2017-07-16 09:23:12