Tyler Walker – Pompey’s New Number Nine

By Sam Stone

As Danny Cowley has previously mentioned, things can move extremely quickly on the transfer front and the last few days have proved this. Only a few days ago we were told that John Marquis would be staying put till the end of the season and seeing out the rest of his hefty contract. Fast forward a week and Marquis is donning the red and white of Lincoln City, whilst his royal blue number nine jersey now has a new incumbent – Coventry City’s Tyler Walker. 

Much like the Joe Morrell saga in the summer, Cowley’s patience in getting the right player has seen him land another long-term target that he has previously worked and been successful with in the past. Walker was prolific for Cowley as Lincoln made a promising start to life in League One two seasons ago. This earned the Nottingham Forest loanee a move to Coventry City.

Despite featuring in 20 matches this season, Walker has failed to make a significant impact for a flourishing Coventry side. The likes of Matt Godden and Viktor Gyokeres have been the mainstays in Mark Robins’ 3-5-2 system. There seems to be a consensus from Coventry fans that Walker needs a fresh start to rediscover his confidence and goalscoring form; so, it seems this move suits both parties.

As previously mentioned, Walker was instrumental in Lincoln’s fast start to the 19/20 League season. Scoring 14 League goals before the season was curtailed. Much like we have seen this season, Cowley was not afraid to experiment with formations, with him utilising Walker as a loan striker and pairing him with a strike partner.

Interestingly, Walker scored almost all of his goals whilst being utilised as the only striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. It will be interesting to see how Cowley utilises Walker with the Blues currently operating with two forwards – Ronan Curtis and George Hirst.

However, in 2018/19, whilst at Mansfield Town Walker scored 22 goals whilst being utilised in a strike partnership. It seems Cowley has managed to land himself a versatile striker, who, on his day, knows where the back of the net is. 

This season has been a struggle for the former Nottingham Forest man, with just three goals to his name thus far. However, looking at his goals this season does give us hope he could be the man to put himself in the right areas and capitalise on Pompey’s good build-up play. 

Pompey had numerous crosses that were crying out for an instinctive presence in the box. Walker’s three goals this season have all come from areas that are often unoccupied when Pompey attack; with each being clinically put in the net with minimal touches or fuss. Over the past calendar year, Walker has a better far better goal conversion (17%) than George Hirst (8%) and a similar XG to Hirst, despite playing in the Championship. 

The big challenge for Cowley is to rediscover Walker’s best goalscoring form. At present, he is a player seemingly low on confidence. As Pompey fans, we have seen the issues that low confidence can have on a striker. John Marquis looked low on confidence throughout his whole tenure at the club, George Hirst struggled during the opening months of his loan spell, and going back further, the likes of Michael Smith was hounded during his spell due to a complete lack of self-belief in front of goal – look at the player he has gone onto be with a manager and fan base that has full confidence in his ability.

In the case of Walker, he has the reputation for putting himself in the right place, something that cannot be said of Pompey’s current strike force. With the numerous openings that Pompey create, the full backing of the manager and fan base, and putting himself in the right areas, there is no reason why Walker cannot be the striker that we’ve been crying out for since Brett Pitman departed the club. 

His reputation for being a hardworking, mobile, and energetic striker will already put him in the good books of most Pompey fans. George Hirst has revived his loan spell due to his hard work and ability to stretch the play and make life difficult for defenders. Unlike Hirst, Walker has a pedigree in this division for scoring goals. 

The addition of Walker, along with Hayden Carter from Blackburn, and shifting the majority of Jackett’s deadwood off the wage bill is all Pompey fans wanted from this window and if it closed tomorrow, most of us would be content.

Although, by the tone of Cowley’s voice recently, I would anticipate a few more quality loan additions before the end of the month; something that should excite most Pompey fans.

Photo: Portsmouth FC

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