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Comparing Man City’s star right-backs – numbers show that Guardiola has a selection headache

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Comparing Manchester City’s new signing Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker

Premier League champions Manchester City completed the signing of Juventus defender Joao Cancelo on a six-year deal.

Cancelo, 25, has signed a contract at the Etihad Stadium until the summer of 2025 and became Manchester City’s third signing of the summer after Angelino and Rodri.

The Portugal international, who won the domestic double with Juventus in his debut season in the Serie A, was a part of the Man City squad that thrashed West Ham United 5-0 on the opening day of the Premier League season.

However, he had to watch on from the sidelines as Kyle Walker put in a terrific performance at right-back.

As things stand, Pep Guardiola has two brilliant, flying right-backs in Walker and Cancelo. Thus, it is worth comparing them and finding out the reason behind Man City’s decision to splash the cash on Cancelo.

Statistical comparison of Walker and Cancelo from 2018-19 season

In terms of the defensive numbers, Kyle Walker, who made 30 appearances for City in the Premier League last season, made 1.2 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game. He made 1.5 clearances and blocked 0.2 shots.

Cancelo, on the other hand, played only 22 games for Juventus in the Serie A as he spent a couple of months on the sidelines after undergoing knee surgery.

Yet, he made 1.7 tackles and 0.6 interceptions on average. The Portuguese was dribbled past 0.9 times a game and committed 1.3 fouls per game, which doesn’t paint a great picture as far as the right-back’s defensive qualities and game-reading are concerned.

Moreover, Cancelo received six yellow cards in comparison to Walker’s three during the entire 2018/19 campaign.

As far as the offensive numbers are concerned, Walker managed just a goal and an assist. Cancelo bagged three goals and an assist, with 1.4 key passes and 2.4 dribbles per game. Walker, meanwhile, amassed 0.7 key passes and 0.5 dribbles on average.

Cancelo is a decent passer of the ball and enjoyed a pass success rate of 86.2%. Walker enjoyed a whopping passing success rate of 90.1% in the Premier League.

Looking at the numbers, it is not surprising to see that Walker enjoyed a better pass success rate than Cancelo purely because City have adopted a free-flowing possession-based approach under Pep Guardiola.

But Cancelo, who can play further forward on the right, is more creative and forward-thinking than Walker as he is comfortable getting involved in intricate, free-flowing football in the final third, meaning the Portuguese can support the likes of Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in the attack.

He works tirelessly up and down the right flank and is considerably more useful in possession.

This doesn’t mean that Walker is bad by any means, but it highlights the differing profiles of the two players. The England international has improved defensively under Guardiola but he doesn’t have the dribbling ability, natural flair and vision to create opportunities for his teammates as Cancelo does.

Verdict

Both Walker and Cancelo are entirely different players, with both having a diverse style of play and qualities. And this should be considered as a boon for Guardiola though, as he has two different options to use depending on the opposition. Without any second thoughts, Cancelo’s addition looks perfect.

The Portuguese full-back is one of the best in Europe, particularly in possession, and is ideal to compete with Walker for the right-back spot, something which Danilo couldn’t.

Walker’s performance in the 5-0 thrashing of West Ham shows that he is dedicated to the task and wary of City’s brand new star, Joao Cancelo.

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