Warm-up friendlies are essentially a showcase. A chance for Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad to impress the boss and earn a starting berth come the World Cup.
With just one more game to go before the Three Lions embark on their Russian adventure, every minute, pass and even touch count.
With Trent Alexander-Arnold as of yet uncapped -the least experienced of the entire England squad- and recovering from both a physically and emotionally draining loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League final, Kieran Trippier was given the nod at right wing back against Nigeria.
The Tottenham player performed well, but should he be given the number two shirt against Tunisia in the Three Lions’ opening game on June 18th?
“Kieran has outstanding quality”
Trippier only truly emerged as a contender to start at the World Cup after Southgate opted to move Kyle Walker inside as the right-hand centre back in his back three and with Alexander-Arnold uncapped, the 27-year-old is the more experienced of the duo with six caps.
His performance against Nigeria suggested as much and Trippier didn’t at all look out of his depth on the international stage.
The right back was impressive going forwards and offered a consistent attacking threat on the right flank, an aspect that Southgate himself took note of.
His quality on the ball is outstanding, the Three Lions boss said in the wake of England’s victory.
Trippier fired in the corner that Gary Cahill converted to open the scoring in the sixth minute, whilst forcing a save from Nigeria ‘keeper Francis Uzoho from a powerful free-kick a minute earlier.
A set piece specialist, this could be enough to force himself into contention, especially as Southgate considers such a profile on the flank to be “very important.”
“That position is very important”
More generally, the right back displayed good positional awareness to find space in the final third -after initially winning the ball back from Victor Moses- and was able to fire in a dangerous low cross that Jesse Lingard should have converted in the 28th minute.
Additionally, he made good use of possession when in advanced positions, even if he wasn’t able to cross himself.
For instance, he got in behind full back Brian Idowu to set up a crossing position for Lingard in the 30th minute and made a smart pass to create the same for Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the 70th.
Defensively, however, the Tottenham right back looked somewhat suspect, at fault with the remainder of the defence for Alex Iwobi’s goal. Trippier, amongst others, failed to react quickly to the rebound and was caught out of position on occasion.
Herein lies the problem.
Trippier is an attacking threat, but he lacks speed to the same degree as Walker and Alexander-Arnold, meaning he doesn’t have this to rely on for recovery if caught too high up the pitch during an opposition counter.
Against the likes of Tunisia and Panama, this may not prove too troublesome, but against the attacking might of the Belgian Red Devils, particularly Eden Hazard, who likes to operate from the left flank, this deficiency could come to the fore.
Trippier & Alexander-Arnold Compared
|Kieran Trippier||Trent Alexander-Arnold|
Whilst Alexander-Arnold is the quicker of the pair, Trippier statistically excelled in the Premier League in his 24 appearances.
He created 15 more chances and assisted four more goals, whilst having a better pass completion percentage (81%) and winning four more tackles. The Liverpool teenager, however, completed more take-ons (20) and interceptions (27).
Although the 19-year-old impressed in his debut campaign, particularly in the Champions League, Trippier had a better season statistically, though this does not always tell the entire story.
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