Liverpool's Glen Johnson v Tottenham's Kyle Walker: A Statistical Look

Clive Brunskill

In our "Who's On The Plane To Brazil?" article, there was a little disagreement as to the validity of confirming Kyle Walker as England's best right back. So we decided to take a closer look at this.

For this exercise we are going to be using the statistics provided by Squawka. One of the best football statistical sites on the internet.

So lets compare the statistics for Tottenham right back Kyle Walker, Liverpool man Glen Johnson, Manchester City's Micah Richards and Manchester United's Chris Smalling. Now lets not forget that Smalling plays centre and right back for United, so his stats a little skewed and Micah Richards only played a handful of games last year. However personally the main competition for me is between Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker.

For comparison sake, we are going to take the entire 2012/2013 season. As so far this year, only Kyle Walker has played consistently for his club and even then the sample size is simply too small.

First of all we are going to look at playing time:

Player Games Minutes Played
Walker 36 3157
Johnson 36 3223
Smalling 15 1017
Richards 7 616

Now lets have a look at some simple defensive stats:

Player Interceptions Blocked Shots Clearances
Walker 87 11 295
Johnson 56 9 198
Smalling 16 11 116
Richards 14 5 60

Player Successful Passes Pass Complettion % Key Passes Assists
Walker 1295 85% 49 4
Johnson 1395 83% 43 3
Smalling 381 85% 2 0
Richards 209 89% 3 0

As Kyle Walker and Glen Johnson play on teams that are similar in terms of quality, I think you can take a lot of these stats at face value. They both usually receive the same amount of pressure, they both have the license to get forward and the quality around them is similar. Defensively it doesn't look as though there is even a conversation to be had. Kyle Walker leads in every single important category, I've always liked Walker's ability to use his pace to get back and support his centre backs, and I think that is reflected in the clearance statistics. Going forward he has had more key passes, a better pass accuracy and more assists than Johnson, that seems to tick the box in his favour as well.

We're going to keep going with these statistics, so I hope you're not bored yet.

Player Free Kicks Given Free Kicks Gained
Walker 49 24
Johnson 30 23
Smalling 6 8
Richards 8 4

One thing I hate, is a player who gives away free kicks in dangerous positions. At the World Cup, almost every single team will have a set-ball specialist. Now this doesn't define where the free kick was conceded, but less than 1 a game from both Walker and Johnson is impressive.

Players % Of Tackles Won % Of Headers Won Cards: Y/R
Walker 81% 51% 7/0
Johnson 81% 57% 5/0
Smalling 80% 64% 1/0
Richards 90% 77% 2/0

In terms of tackles, headers and dicipline, both Johnson and Walker are right there together. Micah Richards stands out, but at the same time it is a very small sample size, so I expect his percentages to be a little higher. You would always expect Smalling to win more headers than the rest, mainly playing centre back and also being a lot taller.

However there is just one more table that I want to highlight, and this table is a pretty big one when you consider that just one mistake in a knock-out tournament can send your team home.

Player Defensive Mistakes Defensive Mistakes Leading To A Goal
Walker 5 2
Johnson 1 0
Smalling 1 0
Richards 1 0

Despite the defensive mistakes by Walker, I would see start him as my right back. He looks very comfortable and confident this year and his defensive ability in terms of interceptions and clearances really stick out. You can all draw your own conclusions from this, what are your thoughts?

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