LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 04: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United scores a headed goal from a corner past Brad Friedel of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on March 4, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Sir Winston Churchill once said, "those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." And for all that Harry Redknapp has done well in his tenure at Tottenham Hotspur, it is that failure that may be his Achilles heel.
Kyle Walker came into this seasons with high expectations. Walker had starred in loans with QPR and Aston Villa and been a bright star for the England U-21s. But after the opening Everton match was cancelled due to riots in North London, Walker had to make his Tottenham return against Manchester United. Ashley Young torched Kyle Walker that day, running circles around the young defender. Walker was so bad that he was subbed off at halftime for the calming influence of Vedran Corluka.
While Harry Redknapp seemed to selectively forget what happened on that August evening, Sir Alex Ferguson remembered it all too well. Ferguson realized how effective Young was against Walker that day, and returned him to the left wing ahead of in-form Ryan Giggs. Harry, rather than opting for a way to bolster his defense, went with the same backline that was torched by Arsenal just a week ago. And the results were the same.
The first goal scored by United showed some major naiveté and immaturity by Walker. Bodied up against Wayne Rooney, Walker was more content to jostle with the striker rather than attacking the space and ball where he could get a clearance. The second goal showed more indecisiveness from Walker. As United attacked down the right wing off a throw in, Walker did not pick up Wayne Rooney or Ashley Young. He stood in the middle, only able to get a slight deflection to clear that set up Young's first.
Young's brace showed a lack of communication from Walker. Walker chose to pick up Evra's threat down the wing rather than staying with Young, his main target in defense. The decision was an alright decision, but the execution was anything but. Walker assumed the help was there, rather than calling for a centerback to step up on Young. The result was clear.
The dirty little secret about Kyle Walker is that his defensive technique and instincts just are not there yet. He has the athleticism that lets him cover his mistakes against many wingers. But against a winger with skill and movement that can match Walker, Walker is outmatched. It is for that reason that is ridiculous to contemplate Walker starting for England at this summer's Euros. With a much, much, more skilled right back in Micah Richards playing up to his immense potential in Manchester, plus his city-mates Chris Smalling and Phil Jones showing their adaptability at playing in the center or on the right, Walker is very much on the margins of making the plane.
Going forward this season, Tottenham still has to face some talented left wingers on their road to a top 3 finish. Kyle Walker is still a very promising player, and has to be considered in the race for right back of the future with Kyle Naughton and perhaps Adam Smith. But if Tottenham want to reap the financial riches of assuring themselves top 3, they would be wise to perhaps give Younes Kaboul a serious shot outside, while giving experienced centerbacks like Michael Dawson and Ryan Nelsen a chance to return to the side.
Walker will still get games this season and make a major impact. But when it comes time to face the likes of Juan Mata, Harry Redknapp would be wise to learn from the past. Opt for experience this time, not potential.