Tottenham defender Kieran Trippier has just been handed a new five-year deal and is set to start the season as Spurs’ first choice right-back after Kyle Walker was sold to Man City. The £50 million Tottenham secured for Walker looks to be a great piece of business as he is 27 years old and Trippier was in danger of usurping him in the side anyway.
Trippier was preferred in big games towards the end of last season, such as the FA Cup tie against Chelsea and the north London derby, and he would have had a serious claim to nail down a place in the starting 11. He has also broken into the England squad, winning his first cap in a friendly against France, and will now vie for place in the national team with Walker. So who is the better player? Here we analyse their key attributes:
Walker definitely has the edge here as he is exceptionally quick and zips up and down the touchline all game. His pace gives his team an extra dimension in attack, and it is extremely useful to help him recover quickly if an attacker beats him. Trippier is certainly the slower player and will not be able to make the transition from attack to defence as quickly.
There is not much in it here. Trippier is an aggressive tackler and bullied Alexis Sanchez throughout that game against Arsenal towards the end of last season. Walker has never been 100% convincing in the tackle, but he has developed into a solid, reliable defender in recent years. Having been second choice for a while, Trippier has played far fewer games than Walker, despite only being a year younger, and while that lack of experience could be a hindrance, he also has a lot more potential to improve and could thrive alongside the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, while Pep Guardiola is not exactly known for getting the best out of defenders, so Trippier could soon overtake Walker.
“Fullback Kyle Walker becomes the world’s most expensive defender at £50m plus, imagine how much he would cost if he could cross the ball,” tweeted a gleeful Gary Lineker after the sale. While he has played a few great crosses here and there, it is certainly a weakness of Walker’s game. Last season Trippier created 1.8 chances per game, while Walker created 1.3. Trippier is more composed on the ball and a better crosser, so despite his lack of pace he could tee up more chances for teammates, and he has the edge in this category.
Trippier needs to improve in this area as he won just 33% of aerial duels last season, while Walker won 65%. A clear win for Man City’s new boy here.
Walker’s pace gives him the opportunity to recover after being caught out of position, while Trippier can ill afford that luxury, so he is the more disciplined player defensively. Walker has more experience, however, so this looks a close category, but Trippier might just shade it as he is more of a natural defender.
Work rate and stamina
You cannot really fault the work rate of either player. Both have totally bought into Mauricio Pocchetino’s ehtos, which means high intensity, hard pressing, all action football, bombing up and down the wing, giving 100% in every tackle, closing the opposition down quickly and breaking rapidly. It is remarkable to see Walker sprinting with such energy towards the end of matches. But Trippier also has great stamina and never says die, so it is fairly even here too.
There is not a great deal in it, but Walker just about has the edge right now. He is quicker, more experienced and better in the air. He also completes more passes and is better at dribbling, making him an asset going forwards. That is what convinced Pep Guardiola to break the world record for a defender on signing him, and that is why he will hold onto his place as England’s first choice right-back for a while longer. And that is why, when looking through the markets, Man City are 9/5 favourites to win the Premiership at Tottenham are 8/1 outsiders: the former is buying players in their peak for the present, whereas Tottenham are still striving to reach their full potential.
But Trippier is a very promising full-back and seems to be constantly improving. He is strong in the tackle and has great positional awareness, so he is a fine replacement, and Spurs will just have to adapt their game slightly with him in the team. Given more game time, it is highly likely that he will develop into a better defender than Walker. You would not be surprised, however, if Tottenham dipped into the transfer market and signed another right-back like Ricardo Pereira, who has been linked and has excellent pace and stamina, which would give Tottenham a different option in that position.