Vanarama’s Deal In Focus: Josh Walker

By Tom Scott

John Still knows a player when he sees one – and the Southend United director of football has wasted no time after the Shrimpers’ transfer embargo was lifted.

Two players arrived at Roots Hall on Monday: centre-back Joe Gubbins from Queens Park Rangers, and ex-Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge striker Josh Walker. Both have signed two-year deals with Kevin Maher’s side.

In particular, the pick-up of Walker from Burton Albion for an undisclosed fee will serve as notice of Southend’s intent this season.

He was already known to Still as it was the three-time Vanarama National League winner who plucked Walker from Isthmian League Hendon in 2018, taking him to Barnet.

A return of 32 goals in 106 National League outings indicates what Walker will bring to Essex.

“I like to play football,” Walker told Southend’s website. “I don’t mind going direct, but I like the ball on the floor.

“I like running in behind, I don’t mind coming to feet, but I’m more of an off-the-shoulder player making runs in behind and scoring as many goals as possible.”

A closer look at Walker’s expected goals shot map shows not only his ruthless efficiency but his knack for taking high-value opportunities, which are the darker icons.

Expected goals (xG for short) value is based on where a shot is taken from, taking into account factors including distance, angle, the type of shot and the number of defenders between the player shooting and the goal.

For example, a close-range effort with nobody obstructing the shooter might expect to be worth 0.75 xG or 75%. A 30-yard volley through a penalty area full of players could be worth 0.03xG or 3%.

In Walker’s case, we can see the vast majority of his goals – the dark red stars – have come from positions within the lines of the six-yard box. In other words, central, and not too far from goal.

The next graphic shows the passes he received leading to a shot whilst at Dagenham & Redbridge. The white lines are efforts that were saved, blocked or missed the target. The turquoise ones resulted in a goal. Again, we can see he put away a lot of those chances from high-value areas.

Among all strikers who played in at least 25% of available minutes during 2021/22 and 2022/23, Walker ranks third for penalty-area touches per 90 minutes (5.16). In other words, he is always alive and active in the box. Only former Southend forward Callum Powell (5.55) and Millwall-bound Macaulay Langstaff (5.54) could better him.

We can see from his heat map, which shows where his on-ball actions occurred during that period, that he is not marooned in the box, however. That’s not to say he is the most-involved striker, but he uses the ball well when he gets on it.

During those two seasons with Dagenham & Redbridge, Walker completed an average of 11.09 of 14.96 passes he attempted per 90 minutes, giving him an overall completion rate of 74.12%.
Pace is another of Walker’s big assets and, across the same period, he ranked fifth among all National League strikers for accelerations with 1.05 per 90. These are defined by Wyscout as: “A run with the ball with a significant speed up.”

Furthermore, Walker ranked eighth in the progressive runs metric (2.18 per 90). This is defined as: “A continuous ball control by one player attempting to draw the team significantly closer to the opponent goal.”

Speaking after signing for the Shrimpers, Walker revealed there had been interest in his services as far back as January. For Southend, good things come to those who wait.

Make the signing of the summer with Vanarama! Click here to view their latest car and van leasing offers

Where next?

Vanarama’s Deal In Focus: Sam Beckwith Maidenhead United’s recruitment has rightly won plenty of plaudits in the last week.
McGrath: Buxton Won't Be Taking Anything For Granted John McGrath says his Buxton side can't take their new full-time status for granted in their quest for promotion.