Kieran Trippier fails audition for England’s right-back berth after cautious display in 4-0 win over Bulgaria
- Kieran Trippier appeared cautious throughout England’s 4-0 win over Bulgaria
- Trippier rarely threatened down England’s right side and whipped in few crosses
- The right-back was seen in deep discussion with Gareth Southgate throughout
As his team-mates jogged back to the halfway line following Harry Kane’s opener at Wembley, Kieran Trippier headed straight to the England bench.
The right back had been deep in conversation with manager Gareth Southgate shortly before England broke the deadlock. While Wembley celebrated, Trippier wanted more instructions.
It wasn’t clear what Southgate told his right-back. The only visible sign of what the England manager wanted came with his hands. Repeatedly Southgate gestured towards the Bulgaria goal, as if slicing an imaginary cake.
Kieran Trippier failed to shine as England comfortably beat Bulgaria 4-0 at Wembley
Trippier appeared cautious throughout and rarely whipped his trademark crosses into the box
Trippier’s display will have done little to worry Trent Alexander-Arnold or Aaron Wan-Bissaka
If that was his way of asking Trippier to be more incisive, his words fell on deaf ears.
This was supposed to be the day when the 28-year-old reignited his England career. Sold by Spurs to Atletico Madrid this summer, Trippier has worked his way back into Southgate’s plans with a fine start to life in Spain.
Following a difficult 12 months, he particularly impressed Diego Simeone’s side with his application in pre-season. There was no doubting his attitude here, either, as he started ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold at Wembley.
In fact, Trippier did very little wrong. He helped England keep a clean sheet and made more passes than anyone else on the pitch.
But this was not a display to strike fear into Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker or Aaron Wan-Bissaka – his right back rivals. Two of four will likely make the squad for next summer’s Euros and Trippier won’t get many more chances to stake his claim. Why then, was he so cautious?
On the opposite flank, Danny Rose was an effective outlet for England as they looked for openings out wide.
The Tottenham left back struggled for game time at last year’s World Cup, while Trippier made the team of the tournament in Russia. A lot can change in a year.
Here at Wembley, Trippier barely offered a threat. Rarely did he overlap his winger, rarer still were the kind of underlapping runs Raheem Sterling is used to from Walker at Manchester City.
Instead, when England pressed forward, Trippier stayed inside, sitting almost as a second holding midfielder alongside Declan Rice.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is likely to get his chance to stake his claim for right-back slot
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is another option at right-back for Southgate after impressing for Man Utd
It’s a tactic Pep Guardiola has used to great effect. But if this is to be Trippier’s role for England, it feels a crying shame.
The 28-year-old has a brilliant right foot and from a rare crossing opportunity he picked out Kane, whose header was saved.
But that was about as good as it got for him going forward. Certainly he did little here to suggest he would be more dangerous than Alexander-Arnold, who racked up more Premier League assists (12) than any other defender last season.
Kyle Walker remains England’s first choice right-back but was left out of the England squad
And despite Bulgaria’s unambitious game-plan Trippier had the odd defensive wobble, too.
He allowed Bulgaria to break when he dived in and lost an early 50-50 and shortly after the break he allowed Anton Nedyalkov to slip behind him as the visitors launched a rare attack.
At the other end, Plan A remained in place even as England stretched their lead.
Jordan Henderson and Ross Barkley were tasked with supporting Sterling and Marcus Rashford on the right and midway through the second half, Henderson found himself in traffic outside the box.
Under pressure the midfielder held on to the ball and looked to his right – crying out for some help.
He kept waiting, but still no support came from the flank. Eventually Henderson turned back and played a simple ball to Trippier in a central position, any attacking threat extinguished.
It was a telling passage of play.
Whether Trippier was the victim of his own caution or a tactical tweak, only Southgate knows. But whoever is to blame, the right back could prove the only loser as the battle for places intensifies ahead of next summer.