For a country that popularised “4-4-2” in its most basic form, England has gone through quite a tactical revolution recently. Perhaps no other position solidifies that revolution quite as well as the right-back. From Trent Alexander-Arnold to Kyle Walker, from Tino Livramento to Kyle Walker-Peters, England’s right-back are almost creator-in-chiefs of their respective sides. Arsenal’s Reuell Walters looks set to continue that trend under the tutelage of Mikel Arteta.
The Arsenal academy has thrown up some truly world-class stars recently and Walters is no different.
So, who is Reuell Walters, and is the hype about him justified?
Who is Reuell Walters?
Reuell Walters is an 18-year-old right-back who came through the Arsenal academy and has progressed through the ranks with remarkable quickness.
An interesting wrinkle in his small career so far is that he was initially signed up by Tottenham, where he lost his interest in football.
From there, he left Spurs and was chased by all the Premier League clubs. He almost chose Manchester United, before some registration rules forced them to back out, paving the way for Arsenal to jump the queue.
In many ways, losing his love for football at Tottenham, and then having it rekindled at Arsenal would already make him a star in the eyes of Arsenal fans.
However, his narrative just secures the bonus brownie points on what is tipped to be an incredible career in the future.
Reuell Walters stats
Walter joined the Arsenal youth setup in October 2020 as a U16. However, his progress was so quick that nobody at Arsenal thought any brakes should be applied. By the next season, he was starting to get called up to the U21s to play the specialised role of an inverted full-back.
Within his first season, he had more appearances for the U21s than U18s, despite being just 17 years old.
Last season, he made 23 appearances in all competitions as he became a full-time member of the U21s.
At the international level, he has been capped by England U18s and U19s. A similar step up cannot be ruled out here as his senior prospects at Arsenal look good this season.
There have been no goals or assists to speak of during the 2022/23 season.
Part of it is down to his reinvention as a centre-back. However, he still played more games as a RB than CB so that is something he will need to work on.
Despite joining at the end of 2020, the fact that Walters was on the bench for the senior team within a year and a half speaks volumes of his potential.
Last season, he even made the bench for a Europa League fixture against Sporting. He is, however, yet to make a first-team appearance.
His versatility will undoubtedly be valued by Mikel Arteta, who likes his players to be flexible tactically so he can give fluid instructions.
Walters is very much like Arsenal’s new signing, Jurrien Timber, and not just in terms of their preferred position.
While Timber is a CB who can also play as an RB, Walker’s is a vice-versa case. He is also comfortable playing as a right-midfielder, where he can use his first burst of pace and acceleration to knock the ball past defenders and stretch the play.
His long-term future looks to be at right-back. With some work on his end product, Reuell Walters has the potential to be the RB version of Manchester City’s prodigy, Rico Lewis.
Lewis was similarly fast-tracked in City’s academy and fulfilled the important role of an inverted full-back in the senior team after his debut.
Walters could be looking to do the same. However, his prospects at Arsenal have gotten tougher with their recent signings.
Reuell Walters at Arsenal
Arsenal have signed Jurrien Timber to play the CB/RB combo role and they already had Ben White who was performing that role admirably.
Walters, therefore, will have to wait for his chance and make an impression as soon as he gets it. His performances in pre-season will be keenly watched by the Arsenal staff as they gauge his readiness for the rigours of the senior team.
Many times, a good pre-season can catapult youngsters into first-team roles they never look back from.
The road will be difficult for Walters, but he has shown the ability to handle being fast-tracked before. It wouldn’t be wise to bet against him doing the same again.