Blackburn Rovers have completed their fourth signing of the summer transfer window, after confirming the signing of Brighton goalkeeper Christian Walton on a season-long loan.
A new goalkeeper has been a priority for Rovers throughout the transfer window, something which was only enhanced by the sale of last season’s number one David Raya to Championship rivals Brentford earlier this month.
Walton has spent the last two years on loan at Wigan Athletic, winning the League One title with the Latics during the 2017/18 campaign, before returning to the DW Stadium to help Paul Cook’s side to an 18th place finish in the Championship last season.
With Raya gone, there will be plenty of expectation on Walton to play his part in strengthening a Blackburn defence that conceded 69 goals in 46 league games last season.
So will Walton be capable of doing that during his time at Ewood Park?
Here, we put the spotlight on his performances for Wigan last season to find out.
Unlike Raya, who was an almost ever-present feature between the posts for Rovers up until the final four games of the season, Walton was not quite as regular a feature at Wigan last season, with the 23-year-old making 34 league appearances for the Latics.
The initial signs for Rovers are encouraging, as Walton’s average of 1.3 goals conceded per game is slightly less than Raya’s average of 1.45 per game.
It is worth noting however, that in contrast to Raya, for whom the average number of goals he was expected to concede (1.44) matched up pretty accurately with the average that did actually go past him (1.45), there does appear to be some difference in that respect for Walton, who despite conceding an average of 1.3 per game, was only actually expected to let in around 1.17 goals per game.
That is something that will be a slight concern for Rovers, although there are other areas that do seem to be encouraging for Walton’s new temporary side.
For starters, with an average of 2.38 saves per game, Walton is certainly capable of stopping those efforts that come his way, and that average is all that dissimilar to Raya’s average of 2.91 saves per game throughout the course of last.
Intriguingly, while it was Raya’s athletic and at times spectacular shot-stopping that helped him become so popular with the Rovers fanbase, it could be suggested that Walton can make an even bigger impact in that regard.
Whereas the Spaniard was forced to use his reflexes when 45.3% of the time, Walton was forced to call upon his reactions to keep the ball out of his goal with just over half of the saves he made, so the Rovers faithful should be confident that they will still be entertained by their new stopper next season.
Another, potentially significant positive about Rovers’ newest recruit comes in the form of his distribution, which is fast becoming an increasingly important aspect of being a goalkeeper in modern-day football, as teams look to spring attacks in any and every way possible.
That ability to play find a teammate with his clearances was a bone of contention that a number of Rovers fans had with Raya during his time at the club, and Walton does certainly seem to be an improvement in that respect.
Over the course of last season, just 60% of Raya’s long balls were accurate in finding a teammate – bringing an end to a number of Rovers’ attacks before they had begun.
By comparison, Walton’s long balls found a teammate 73.8% of the time, which does seem to suggest that the on-loan Brighton man will be able to provide a welcome boost to Rovers’ attacking threat as they look to build on their promising return to the Championship last season.
With Raya’s departure leaving Rovers in the unusual situation of having to find a direct replacement for their first choice in a certain position, there will inevitably be questions about the man brought in to replace the Spaniard, be that Walton or someone else.
The stats here however, do suggest that Walton may yet offer a viable solution for Tony Mowbray’s side next season, and if he does, you imagine there will be plenty of more Rovers fans calling for his loan to be made permanent this time next year, than there are currently wondering whether this is the right decision.