Southgate hails “underestimated” Trippier
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Gareth Southgate says Kieran Trippier is a different player compared to his Tottenham days following his surprise inclusion at left-back against Croatia.
Despite the fact Southgate included two orthodox left-backs in his 26-man squad in Manchester United’s Luke Shaw and Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, usual right-back Trippier was selected on the left.
It was a decision that baffled many fans heading into the game but was vindicated as England put in a solid display to defeat the 2018 World Cup finalists 1-0 and get their group stage campaign off to the perfect start.
Former Burnley man Trippier is one of the most experienced players in the squad and Southgate decided to stay loyal to one of his most trusted lieutenants.
Since scoring a stunning free-kick in the World Cup semi-final – possibly the highlight of his career – Trippier has swapped the Premier League for La Liga, after Diego Simeone took him to Atletico Madrid.
Last month, he helped his side win the title on the final day as they came from a goal down to defeat Real Valladolid 2-1 and finish two points ahead of arch rivals Real Madrid.
Speaking about the 30-year-old full-back, Southgate says he has become a much more well-rounded player since joining Atletico because he is under the tutelage of Simeone – renowned for instilling defensive nous into his players.
“What Kieran has, firstly, is hugely underestimated,” Southgate said
“I think people are still seeing the lad that was at Spurs a couple of years ago and not the defensive animal that has grown at Atletico Madrid, trusted by one of the best and most successful coaches in the world [Diego Simeone].
“He gets his distances right on cover, he’s good one-v-one to stop crosses, and his talking is really good.”
Trippier wasn’t the only surprise sprung by Southgate at Wembley on Sunday.
Harry Maguire’s absence led a lot of supporters to believe a back five was inevitable but the ex-Middlesbrough boss stuck with a back four.
Jack Grealish was left on the bench despite the clamouring from fans for his selection, with out-of-form winger Raheem Sterling selected instead, a decision which proved correct after he bagged the winning goal.
Even England’s playing style was varied – plenty of long balls were played up towards Kane and Sterling as they looked to catch out Croatia.
Southgate has always tried to coach England to play out from the back but says it is important to mix up styles to suit different occasions.
The 50-year-old believes it is necessary to avoid football “snobbery” when it comes to playing styles.
“We don’t have as long to work on those patterns playing from goal kicks as you do at a club, and also we’re one mistake away from it being more costly – across 38 games that’s different,” he added.
“We shouldn’t be football snobs. It’s great to play out from the back and get to the halfway line in control of the ball, but it’s just as effective to go to the centre-forward and be in control of the ball and be able to play from there.
“The variety is important against top opposition.”