January is going to be a crazy month for Newcastle United. As fans, it seems very surreal that we are being linked with the level of player that we are. Kieran Trippier is the first to join Eddie Howe’s revolution and it is a statement of intent. During the last 12 months, he has won La Liga and played in the European Championship final. He is a player at the very top of his game.
Despite their reluctance to sell and our perilous league position, we have managed to attract the starting right back of the current Spanish champions. It underlines the changing tide under the new ownership. There will be criticism of his decision to go from Champions League football to fighting relegation. However, for the club, it is a sign of things to come.
Below, we will look closer at our first January signing and speculate what he will bring to Eddie Howe’s squad.
Style of play
The two graphics give an overview of Trippier’s profile. The first graphic shows how he compares to other La Liga full-backs in the current season. The second graphic shows his key metrics over the past 12 months.
His low dribbling average shows that Trippier isn’t a full-back that looks to run with the ball. However, his strength lies in scanning the pitch and progressing the ball with his passing range. This has been the case throughout his career, but it has become a clear preference in his 30s.
Trippier averages 6.55 deep progressions per ninety minutes this season for Atletico. This will be one of the key reasons why he has been targeted by Howe, as the Newcastle boss wants his team to play out from the back.
In his short tenure, there has been a struggle within the current squad to adapt and this is an area that Trippier will immediately improve. His passing ability improves Newcastle’s ability to launch counterattacks quickly, which will suit the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson (once he returns from injury). Both like to make runs behind opposition defences.
As is expected from a spell playing under Diego Simeone, Trippier has improved immeasurably as a defender. His possession adjusted tackles (2.34) and interceptions (1.6) show that he is very good at winning the ball back. Despite his small stature, he is more than competent in the air, winning 2.35 aerial duels per ninety minutes during the last year. This puts him in the 93rd percentile among full-backs.
The graphic below shows Trippier’s average position when in possession of the ball. He can cover the entire flank, but he isn’t likely to pass the opposition penalty area. The majority of his touches in this area will be when he picks up the ball following a corner.
The position he operates in most is just inside the opposition half. From here, he can cross into the area or play passes into the final third.
Trippier understands that he is no longer able to get up and down the touchline at will. He is more intelligent in the positions he takes up.
Date source: statsbomb
The scatterplot below shows the strengths of Trippier’s game. His ability on the ball was touched upon earlier, but this graphic shows that the England international ranks as one of the best in Europe. This is alongside notable names like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Hans Hateboer, Reece James and Benjamin Pavard.
Trippier averages 6.5 deep progressions and 14.8 open play final third passes per ninety minutes. He isn’t quite in the league of Alexander-Arnold, but the Liverpool right-back is emerging as the best full-back of his generation. For Trippier to be appearing so highly in these comparisons at the age of 31 is very impressive.
Since Howe has taken over, there has been a reliance on Jonjo Shelvey to progress the side up the pitch. Trippier will be able to improve the build-up play and get us into more advanced positions. This should be one of the key improvements we see in the squad during January, as the squad is moulded to suit the head coach.
OBV (on ball value) measures all of a player’s passes, carries, shots and defensive work to provide a single figure. The above graphic looks at the OBV for passes alone. Trippier has added the most value to the Atletico squad with his passes. This emphasises how good he is on the ball and why we should be excited by his arrival.
During the build-up to this deal being announced, one of the major positives spoken about by fans is Trippier’s set-piece ability. This season, we have lacked coherent set-piece plans and the inconsistency of takers doesn’t help with that.
Trippier will take the responsibility for most of our set-pieces. England fans will know that he can offer a goal threat when he has the chance to shoot from a direct free kick.
However, it will be his delivery from wide free-kicks and corners that benefits us most.
The stats this year suggest Trippier’s crossing hasn’t been effective in La Liga. His cross completion rate has just been 19%, but this is likely just variance. Last season, it stood at a very healthy 36%. This ranked him within the 78th percentile.
Trippier has been known for his crossing ability for years. During the European Championship final, he crossed for Luke Shaw to score the opening goal.
From the above event data graphic & still image, it is clear that Trippier has a preference to cross from the middle third of the opposition half. Above, you can see one cross he delivered against Sevilla.
From this position, he can add whip to the ball to take it away from the opposition goalkeeper. It is a dangerous crossing position and it is often where we see the likes of Alexander-Arnold deliver from.
Matt Ritchie has been our prolific crosser this season. However, he has operated on the wrong flank and had to cut onto his right foot to deliver. This angle often took the ball towards the keeper. Trippier’s delivery will be a valuable weapon in our fight against relegation.
Defensive Decision Making
This has been a real weakness of our defenders this season, as shown by the defensive errors we have made. We have also conceded a lot of penalties.
Trippier is intelligent in his own half and rarely concedes fouls. The above graphic shows he has only conceded four fouls in his own half. None of these are in particularly dangerous positions.
Meanwhile, he is more willing to be aggressive in his attempts to win the ball higher up the pitch. It is likely that he will concede more fouls in his own half playing for us, as he will have more defending to do.
However, the above graphic suggests that he is unlikely to give away rash fouls in dangerous positions.
Stats and metrics are useful to look at when evaluating a player. However, some things can’t be measured in this way.
Trippier is a player at the peak of his powers. During the last 12 months, he has won a league title and played in a major international tournament final. This is experience that we don’t currently have at the club.
The current squad will be buoyed by his arrival and it could be a signing that raises standards on the pitch. Trippier is a leader with a winning personality. That can only be beneficial in our current position.
The other added bonus of his signing will be what it could mean for the rest of the window. The new owners now have a clear statement of their ambition and that can be used in talks with other targets.
Where will Trippier fit into the current squad?
It doesn’t take in-depth analysis to state that Kieran Trippier will be a huge upgrade on our current right-back options in the squad. Manquillo and Krafth are both triers, but neither are good Premier League right-backs. The above comparison graphics show that Trippier will represent a huge improvement.
There will be hope that he can provide a better defensive option, but his ball progression will be the biggest positive for the team. He ranks alongside the best full-backs in European football, which isn’t a surprise considering what he has achieved in the last 12 months.
Javier Manquillo has been the primary option for us at right-back. He averages 2.01 deep progressions per ninety minutes this season. This rates him in the lowest percentile among full backs. Howe has identified this is a key area for improvement and he has brought in Trippier to do that.
This is an exciting capture for the club. Trippier immediately becomes one of our best players.