Kieran Trippier finally returned to England this January after two and a half seasons with Atlético Madrid after a few transfer windows of speculation. One of the best players at the 2018 World Cup and a La Liga champion, Trippier was well sought after but he ultimately chose to move to Newcastle United. While Newcastle is a historic club with a great fanbase, it’s likely they will be relegated at the end of the season making this transfer one of the weirder ones of recent memory.
When he moved to Atlético, Trippier was off a season where Tottenham had reached the Champions League and he was a key contributor. Coupled with some great performances with England at the World Cup, he became one of the most respected right backs. At Atlético he would continue his development, playing a key role in Atlético winning La Liga last season.
With a variety of teams fighting for his signature, it seemed that Trippier would return to the Premier League for a team that was challenging for the title. It was to a lot of people’s surprise that Trippier moved to Newcastle, making it the weirdest move of the window so far.
Some will argue that Coutinho’s loan move to Aston Villa should be thought of as the weirdest transfer of the window, but the two players had different circumstances surrounding their returns. Coutinho’s value has plummeted since his move to Barcelona and is no longer seen as the mercurial talent that he once was and Aston Villa are still a high performing team in the Prem. While Trippier was a top player for incredible Atléti sides, Newcastle is currently a favorite for relegation seemingly wasting his talents.
It does seem like a weird marriage between player and club, as neither will seemingly bring the best out of the other. While the Coutinho move should still be challenging it for the strangest transfer, for all involved, the Trippier move is still weirder.
At one point in the past four years, Trippier was among the best right backs in the Prem, challenging the likes of Kyle Walker and a younger Trent Alexander-Arnold for the top spot. It’s not as if his time at Atléi was a failure, Trippier still showed that he could be a top defender on a winning team.
His numbers at Atléi were still impressive, as he played a big role in the team’s first league title since 2014. In that title winning season, he posted the most assists that he’s had in a top flight while keeping his passing numbers at an elite level. This great offensive output didn’t come at the risk of declining defensive numbers, as he still remained a competent defender in a tough league.
While he should not be considered one of the two to three best right backs in a league, due to his age and competition, he could still contribute to a team looking to win. A team like Manchester United or Wolves could definitely use a veteran presence that brings some creativity in the backline.
Trippier is not the same player he was when he left for Spain in 2019, but he is still a quality defender who can give another dimension to an attack. For a team that wants to challenge for a spot in Europe, Trippier is an excellent choice, but for a relegation battling side, his talent may be wasted.
This isn’t meant to be a slight towards Newcastle and their fans, but it seems like they chose the wrong player to help them avoid relegation. Trippier’s signing should have signaled Newcastle’s return to their previous heights, but staring down relegation, it’s the wrong move.
Newcastle this season has both one of the worst offenses and defenses, making their relegation seemingly inevitable. This team can’t score or defend, making it even more weird that out of all possibilities to choose from, they brought in a right back. A right back, or left back, should never be what a team is built around, it’s a position that is only important when a team has all the other pieces in place.
With relegation likely, Newcastle should have pivoted towards players who could help them in the championship, a veteran center back who could bring stability or an actual goal scoring threat. If this Newcastle side were higher up the table, safe from relegation, this would have been an excellent move to signal the team’s return to glory. Having Trippier, and Allan Saint Maximin, in the championship without stability on either side of the field seems like having luxury players without any foundational base.
Again, if Newcastle were performing at a higher level and turning heads, this would have been an excellent signing that could have helped the side achieve their ambitions. However, staring down relegation, it seems like this move was more of a symbolic transfer than something to help the team.
Newcastle will more than likely be playing in the Championship next season, as their path out of the relegation is tough. While Trippier should paper over some cracks, it seems like he could have been the right transfer but at a different point in the project. While Coutinho’s move to Villa is still strange, the dynamic between Newcastle and Trippier is a weirder marriage given the circumstances.
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