One of Tottenham’s biggest problems last season was at right-back.
Kyle Walker was often injured and even when he wasn’t, he was defensively poor. His deputy Kyle Naughton was sold in January, after an first half of the season where he was sent off twice and never looked like a viable long-term option in the position.
Many games saw Spurs lining up with a central defender at right-back, with Eric Dier and Vlad Chiriches both being played out of their normal position.
With this is mind it might not seem much of a surprise that the club have targeted Burnley’s Kieran Trippier as a summer signing, but it’s not as straightforward a decision as it may seem. Tottenham signed the young USA full-back DeAndre Yedlin in January and also have a very promising right-back coming through their youth ranks in the shape of Kyle Walker-Peters.
It therefore seemed possible that signing another right-back would not be made a priority, despite the problems the team has had in the position and the fact that neither Yedlin or Walker-Peters are necessarily ready to step up to the first-team squad.
Walker-Peters is only 18 years old, while the 21-year old Yedlin has been managed with deep conservatism in his brief time in England since his move from the MLS. It took several weeks before he even started playing for the U21 side and Mauricio Pochettino and his coaches look reticent to throw him in at the deep end. There’s also the possibility that his best position might be found further forward. After all, some of us will remember a certain Welsh attacking full-back who wasn’t the best defensively and eventually found a home playing further forward.
It would be a big gamble to rely on either player to deputise for Walker at a time when the England international can’t be relied upon. He’s just suffered a season beset with injury problems and has long needed some real competition for his place.
When Walker was first introduced to the team it was expected that he would fight for a place with Vedran Corluka. Instead, Walker was preferred by Harry Redknapp to the point that he was physically exhausted by the April of the 2011-12 season. After that the only ‘competition’ came from Naughton, who was never a real threat.
The form of Danny Rose after the signing of Ben Davies demonstrates how a player can improve when they are forced to. Spurs fans will also remember how Aaron Lennon found another gear when David Bentley was signed.
Walker has every attribute needed to be a brilliant full-back, except perhaps for footballing intelligence. It is his decision making, both going forward and in defence, that is his weakness. For too long he’s relied upon his pace to make up for these deficiencies.
Which brings us to Trippier. Over the last two seasons he’s had a brilliant campaign in the Championship as Burnley won promotion, followed by a debut Premier League season in which he didn’t look out of his depth.
At 24-years old he’s not going to move to a club and settle to be a reserve for a couple of seasons. He’ll push Walker for a place and the quality of his final ball means that he could become a real alternative to Kyle’s head-down bursts from deep – much as Davies could eventually prove to be to Rose.
The signing of Davies ended a seemingly never-ending run of seasons in which the club soldiered on with only one available left-back. It would be silly to repeat this for a second successive season at right-back.
Available at a bargain fee of £3.5m, Trippier would be a no-lose signing. If he’s good he’ll either push Kyle Walker to greater things or take the spot himself. If he’s bad he’ll keep the place warm for a couple of seasons before Yedlin or Walker-Peters is ready to take over, before being sold – probably at a slight profit.
With Tottenham having slapped in a £12m bid for Danny Ings which could see Liverpool paying more than they expect at tribunal, Burnley own us a favour. Trippier could be that small gesture that makes a big impact.