Kyle Walker will be aiming to win his eighth major trophy when Manchester City line up against his former club Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday's Carabao Cup Final. The following extract is part of a long read which explores Walker’s key role in City’s recent success. With comments from the man himself and a host of former players and coaches, it is available to read on mancity.com and the Official Man City app now.
Walker is closing in on 500 games as a professional, during which he has established himself as one of the best right-backs in world football.
The building blocks were put in place at Spurs where, in his words, “Mauricio Pochettino helped me tremendously”, but it is under the stewardship of Guardiola that Walker has taken his game and the position itself to the next level.
At Spurs, he was a major attacking outlet tasked with creating chances in the final third, but the Yorkshireman is more defensively minded these days, influencing the team in a myriad of ways, whether that be as an auxiliary midfielder or when his trademark turn of pace is required to snuff out a counter-attack.
“The way Pep wants to play is unheard of in England,” he explains.
“You don’t train for that growing up. When I was at Sheffield United, it was about getting the ball out of my feet and clipping it into the channels. At Tottenham, it was completely different again.
“When you get a new manager, they bring a new philosophy. It’s about adapting. As a right-back, you need to adapt to different situations and different wingers. That’s what makes the position so exciting.
“Since my first season at City, the manager doesn’t like to be overloaded in midfield, so he likes bringing one of the full-backs inside. He likes to utilise my pace to make sure I control the counter-attack, so I have become a little bit more defensive.
“The demands are incredible. If the opposition play with a two up-front, my position changes. If they play with a one up-front, my position changes. If they play with a winger cutting off the pass, my position changes.
“I have got to adapt more than anyone else on the pitch to the other team. Every game is a new challenge.”
Challenging could not be a more apt description of the right-back role at City.
It is a far cry from the days when full-backs in even the most dominant of teams focused primarily on stopping crosses, with the ability to overlap in attack merely a bonus.
They are both tasks Micah Richards perfected.
Like Walker, he was a fearsome one versus one defender blessed with remarkable pace which made him equally effective at the other end of the pitch, but he is in no doubt that City’s current No.2 has taken the position to new heights.
“Kyle Walker is brilliant. He is one of the most consistent performers I have seen for a long time.
“This season, Kyle has been one of the best players in the team and that is rare for a full-back. He has been able to adapt to whatever Pep has wanted to do. He has passed every test.
“It’s been staggering and I don’t think Kyle gets enough credit for being able to adapt his game for what the team needs. He has taken full-back to the next level.”