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Kyle Walker is a player of the highest quality but unfortunately he’s not a centre-back

The Man City defender performed admirably in Russia but he is not a specialist centre-back and it showed

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Everything was going so well, Gareth Southgate was practising his knighthood speech, Harry Kane was making room for the Golden Boot trophy on his mantelpiece and Harry Maguire was looking forward to getting back to a life of eating bricks and heading washing machines as a national hero.

But then Croatia happened and we have been flung back to a grey, faded reality in the UK.

Dejection

Getty - Contributor
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Dejection

Nevertheless this England team delivered everything we could have possibly wanted from a World Cup.

Reaching the semi-final was beyond wildest expectations but there were so many highs: the last-minute winner against Tunisia, the crushing victory over Panama, winning a penalty shootout and then triumphing in not one but two knockout games.

England looked like a well-oiled traction engine when it came to set-pieces, proved themselves as penalty masters, but sadly struggled to create in open play and there were times last night when the defence wasn’t organised to deserve a place in the World Cup final.

Rest easy Gareth, you’ve won over a nation

PA:Press Association
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Rest easy Gareth, you’ve won over a nation

This is not an attack on Kyle Walker because as we know from his exploits at Manchester City this season he is one of, if not, the best right-back in the world.

He is on his own when it comes to pace, he’s got a fizzing delivery and he isn’t afraid of going one-on-one with a tricky winger.

However, when it comes to England Southgate tucked him inside to the right centre-back position in a back three to essentially accommodate Kieran Trippier and England to benefit from his quality down the line.

It was a clever move from the forward-thinking England boss, putting one of your fastest and strongest players just inside where he normally plays to get the most out of your most creative player.

But, sadly for England fans, it was clear from the first game against Tunisia that Walker is not a centre-back and eventually this reality was exposed against Croatia incisive attack.


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All wrong

Reuters
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All wrong

Remember back to that game when we all started believe that it might be coming home?

After England had gone ahead Kyle Walker was caught in all sorts of a wrong position as a ball was launched towards the far post.

He was facing the wrong way, going towards his own net when he should have had his back to goal, had no idea where his man was and ended up putting his arm across the Tunisian player’s face and conceding a penalty.

Rio Ferdinand described Walker facing his own net the ball comes into the box as ‘criminal’.

Now this isn’t Walker’s fault by any means, he’s learning an incredibly difficult position on the go, but instead of having some easy games to understand the nuances, he is being tested at the very highest level at the World Cup.

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Look at this moment against Colombia.

It’s one of your key defenders, behind Maguire and John Stones, getting out-jumped from another cross into the box.

Again, looking at that picture Walker’s body position looks all wrong for him to overpower his man and win that header.

Get your head in there mate

Reuters
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Get your head in there mate

When the ball came in and Ivan Perisic somehow managed to crook his leg over Walker’s head to stab in last night, the centre-back had fixed his position from the previous two games but it wasn’t enough.

Sime Vrsaljko delivers the ball and Walker can see it coming in, but he doesn’t have a clue where Perisic is.

He plants his feet and get ready to clear it, but that allows the Inter Milan striker to get the run on him and easily volley in.

It’s not a position Walker is used to being in and clearly he hasn’t managed to pick up the fundamentals of where you should be as a centre-back in different situations.

The perfect back-three would read: Maguire, Maguire, Maguire

Getty - Contributor
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The perfect back-three would read: Maguire, Maguire, Maguire

The saving grace we saw last night is that Walker is so fast he can even cover for his own mistakes.

He sweeps up every ball over the top and no-one is beating him in a footrace.

Neither Stones or Maguire possess his speed.

But the question is there to be asked – should Southgate have gone with a specialised centre-back instead of trying to keep Walker and Trippier in the team?

Go back to what you’re best at Kyle.