Cartilage Free Captain continues its series reviewing the players of Tottenham Hotspur and how they performed in the 2015-16 Premier League season. Today's subject: right-back Kieran Trippier
Appearances: 19 (6 PL, 10 EL, 2 FA, 1 LC)
What went right?
When Ben Davies transferred to Tottenham Hotspur, he was hailed as a player who could bring nuance to Spurs attack. What he couldn't match in athleticism to incumbent Danny Rose, he could surpass in tact and passing accuracy. Everyone thought the Welshman would push Danny Rose, many felt he would displace him. Among the scant positive storylines of the 2014-15 season was the play of Danny Rose, something many attributed to the arrival of Ben Davies.
When Kieran Trippier was brought to White Hart Lane last summer, the same logic seemed to apply. Yet the variables of the inevitable Walker-Trippier battle were different than that of Rose and Davies and far more exacerbated too. Walker was more controversial than Rose among the fanbase and their opinions of him were more stark. Ben Davies had to perform to displace Danny Rose, some felt that a beating heart and an ability to place the ball within a three yard vicinity of an intended target would do to dislodge Walker.
Trippier, on the other hand, wasn't as tried and true at the Premier League level as Davies either. As a member of the Manchester City youth setup there was some pedigree there, but Trippier's first team professional career revolved around his experiences at Burnley in the Championship. A decorated performer for the club in the second division of English football, he also held his own in Burnley's one and done foray into the Premier League. Yet Burnley wasn't too spectacular and its sometimes difficult to gauge quality in bad teams. Was Trippier a ray of light streaming out of North-West England's cavernous dark or just the only player who could pass as serviceable Premier League footballer in the side?
Unfortunately for Trippier, it looks like the latter of those scenarios turned out to be true. That said, it wasn't all awful for the twenty-five year old. Trippier appeared in nineteen matches for Spurs this season, ten of which came in the Europa League. Of all the positions on the field that were rotated the most regularly, the outside back positions were tops. Trippier saw his fair share of matches, especially in Europe, and had a few moments throughout the season where he looked really dangerous going forward. Width from the outside backs is paramount in 4-2-3-1 and when Trippier was on his game, he provided a nice mix of athleticism, dribbling finesse, and well placed crosses into dangerous areas. That he was trusted by Pochettino to spell Kyle Walker so frequently was a positive sign as well. If Poche has faith in a footballer then, at the very least, they are working their tails off on the training ground. This is a value added to Trippier's game.
What went wrong?
Kieran Trippier simply isn't a top level Premier League defender. He isn't completely out of his depth with Tottenham Hotspur (he's no Vlad Chiriches), but he isn't all that convincing either. He struggles when isolated on the defense and is prone to conceding free kicks in Spurs' defensive half. His touch also is subpar. How many times this season did the ball pop up or away from him on his first touch? These extra seconds needed to corral the ball utterly decimates the advantage of switching play.
He also isn't the greatest passer. His crossing ability in the final third isn't dreadful, but his passing in possession or when being pressed can be tough. There were numerous occasions where he prematurely lost possession for the side or played shocking square balls in our half that were intercepted and immediately countered on. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the high, Kieran Trippier's footballing qualities show a lot of threes, fours, and fives.
It looks like Kieran Trippier's role with the squad in the 2016-17 season will be similar to his usage in 2015-16. Trippier is the unquestioned (for now) back-up to Kyle Walker, but unlike his counterpart, Ben Davies, his place in the team is far more fragile.
While I don't think Spurs will actively look for back-up left-backs in the next year or two, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Trippier replaced by the beginning of the 2017-18 season. Why? Because there are guys on the roster who already have the potential to replace him on the cheap. American soccer fans might be thinking of DeAndre Yedlin, but don't hold your breath on that one, Spurs and @yedlinny are far from a perfect fit. The guy who Trippier should feel breathing down his neck is nineteen year-old Kyle Walker-Peters. By next summer the young Englishman, if he continues to progress, will be twenty years old and an ideal fit to cameo in cup competitions and be a proper understudy to Kyle Walker without the Peters. This doesn't mean that this season will be Trippier's last with the club, it just means that he isn't much more than a placeholder for KWP.
Rating: 2.5 Chirpys