World Cup 2022: Versatile Kyle Walker-Peters a 25/1 alternative option for Gareth Southgate’s England Squad
Kyle Walker-Peters is in-line to earn his first ever England cap after the Southampton defender was called-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad for the upcoming international friendlies at home to Switzerland and Ivory Coast.
Walker-Peters is a former World Cup winner with the England U20s (2017) who played for The Three Lions youth teams up to U21 level, where he hit a roadblock. However, a stream of consistent and eye-catching performances for the Saints have caught the attention of Southgate who has belatedly named Walker-Peters in his squad for March’s two games.
"The manager [Ralph Hasenhuttl] had given us the week off for the international break and he asked me where I was going, and then said 'no, you're not, you are going away with England!’", Walker-Peters revealed when asked how he found out the news.
With right-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James forced to pull out due to injury, Walker-Peters will be looking to grasp the sudden opportunity to impress with both hands as he bids to force his way into Southgate’s long-term headspace, eight months ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Below, we look at why Walker-Peters represents an intriguing 25/1 option for Southgate to ponder…
Versatile, attack-minded, intelligent
Kyle Walker-Peters has been one of Southampton’s star performers since switching from Tottenham in the January 2020 transfer window; an original six-month loan move which was made permanent that summer.
The 24-year-old is bristling with energy, is quick, and attacking-minded. In 28 appearances for the Saints this season he’s scored three goals and bagged four assists, highlighting his offensive input. He scored a superb goal in the 1-1 draw against Man City; he bombed forwards, played a neat one-two with Nathan Redmond, took a touch, then hit a delightful outside-of-the-boot swerver which soared past Ederson (watch below).
He has confidence and quality on the ball when surging forwards and has also caught the eye through his movement, in-game intelligence, and passing.
One particular attribute that could tempt Southgate into selecting the defender again in the future is Walker-Peters' versatility. He can be employed on either flank; illustrated this season for Southampton where he’s played on both his natural right-side and also over on the left, a position he played during the U20s World Cup win.
Philipp Lahm comparison
Walker-Peters has emerged as an essential ingredient in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton side. The Austrian manager recently lavished praise upon his full-back, to the extent that he even mentioned him in the same sentence as one of the best full-backs of the 21st century: Philipp Lahm.
"Kyle is an unbelievably smart footballer with a super football intelligence," Hasenhuttl said.
"He plays left-back, right-back. He reminds me a little bit of Philipp Lahm I must say, because he is so good on the ball, he always has good decisions. He can run and makes nearly no mistakes."
Avalanche of full-back options
The main problem for Walker-Peters is that he's competing for prized places in his position in an era of exceptional quality.
There are other more high-profile, experienced and successful options ahead of him in the pecking order. Southgate is simply spoilt for choice, we’re talking some of the best in the business right now in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, Kyle Walker, and Ben Chilwell. Providing they are fit and healthy, they are each highly likely to make the squad.
Elsewhere, while favoured by Southgate at international level, Luke Shaw has endured a difficult season at Man Utd and will need to find his form early next term. Meanwhile, Kieran Trippier is another popular name with Southgate but isn’t necessarily a shoo-in to be involved in Qatar.
Similar to Walker-Peters, there are other talented full-backs bidding to force their way into the conversation too, including his own teammate Valentino Livramento, Crystal Palace youngster Tyrick Mitchell, Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey, and Ben Johnson at West Ham.
However, with the likes of Alexander-Arnold, James, Walker, Chilwell, Trippier and Shaw all out of March's squad, Walker-Peters has the perfect opportunity to stake his claim in the next two games.
A big price to contemplate
A combination of factors need to work in the favour of Walker-Peters, who at 25/1 (Sky Bet) is undoubtedly an outsider to be named in the 2022 World Cup squad.
Sky Bet have arguably overpriced him somewhat though with fellow Saint Livramento more than half that price at just 8/1. The latter has never received a call-up and was overlooked in favour of Walker-Peters this time around.
If Walker-Peters seizes his opportunity this March and continues to thrive domestically for the Saints then he could well become a viable option. His versatility is key to his chances. Expect his current price of 25/1 to be sliced should he excel during the current international break.