If you glance back at Walker’s career, you will find great defensive battles at every nook and corner of his story. The fantastic part about these battles are that he has rarely lost any one of them. Wingers around the world still fear running at Walker. They don’t dare to attempt 1v1 against him. You don’t have to go much further than Walker’s battle with Vinicius in the Champion’s League semifinal. Vinicius had given up and it was only Walker’s departure that sparked him into life once again.
It is very easy to just look at the way Saint Maxim dominated Walker in the first half and come to conclusions about how Zaha would take him to the cleaners. In fact, Walker was the player that got the most stick after the Newcastle game. There were questions raised about his effectiveness at this stage of his career. There were people calling out for Cancelo to be shifted to the right side and start Sergio Gomez on the left
To the contrary, i would argue that Walker is in a much better space right now than he has ever been in his career. Yes, with regards to pure pace and acceleration, there is definitely a slight drop off. But, when you look at Walker in his prime, he always had that moment, where he would lose a bit of concentration. In his early years at City, this was a problem for Pep. But, in the last 2 years, Walker has seemed more focused than ever before. He rarely makes a careless mistake now.
I thought that the system of Pep had made Walker’s job almost impossible against Saint Maxim. He was caught in a 2v1 situation between Joelinton and Maxim. Still, Walker tried his best and was not the main culprit in both the goals. The positioning of our center backs was very suspect and we did not track the runners from midfield.
Admist all of this stick, Walker will be facing one of the most inform wingers in the Premier League. The battle with Zaha is not something new for Walker. In fact, it was one of the most iconic duels in that Centurions season. Zaha found it so difficult that he switched the flanks unable to deal with Walker.
The battle here could be slightly different, with Zaha sort of playing between Full back and the Center Back, like he did against Liverpool. Our defenders lack Pace and the only way we can defend counter attacks will be to utilize the recovery pace of Walker. This battle with Zaha will require great awareness of Space and position along with rapid pace.
This duel against Zaha can only be won by Kyle Walker. Other defenders in our team are not equipped to deal with Zaha like Walker. If Walker is not at it, we could easily lose against Palace and it could lead to more questions about the effectiveness of Walker at this age. Looking at the competitor that Walker is, I do not see how Walker will not come up trumps in this battle against Zaha