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Kieran Trippier has become a “defensive animal” ready to roar for the Three Lions.
England boss Gareth Southgate insists people have not grasped that Trippier has been completely transformed during his two years at Atletico Madrid.
Trippier, 30, left Tottenham in 2019 as an attacking right back with a knack of delivering set pieces but has since become an outstanding defender who has just won the Spanish title and been voted in the La Liga Team of the Year.
England international Trippier was the big surprise on the team sheet on Sunday because he was a right back playing on the left and got the nod ahead of a European Cup winner in Ben Chilwell and Manchester United ’s Luke Shaw.
Gareth Southgate has called Kieran Trippier an "animal"
But there was never any doubt in Southgate’s mind because Trippier typifies the “flexibility” he wants from his players and says he is a different beast having worked under Atletico boss Diego Simeone.
Southgate said: “What Kieran has, firstly, is hugely underestimated. 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 coaches and most successful coaches in the world.
“He gets his distances right on cover, he’s good in one v one to stop crosses, and his talking is really good.
“We had a back four, there was always going to have changes in it today and we felt that communication, that organisation was an important part.
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“We’ll look at every opponent, we’ll look at our team for every game, I think we have to have flexibility. We’ve got players who came into the game and did a great job against Croatia and we’ve got other players in the squad who’re going to have a really important part to play.
“That will work its way around, there’s going to be opportunities for a lot more players in the next couple of weeks.”
Southgate is adamant that no single player can play 90 minutes of all seven games should England go that far and every player will need to be rested and rotated.
But there was no injury for Chilwell, Shaw was only on the bench, and yet it was a clear decision to pick Trippier because of his defensive abilities and that adaptability will be key for England, according to Southgate.
Ben Chilwell missed out the Croatia game
(Image: The FA via Getty Images)
Southgate was aware of the pre-match criticism and doubts about the selection of Trippier but there are likely to be more picks that surprise fans and pundits alike.
Croatia was about control, patience and getting the job done. Scotland is more likely to be a Premier League clash, a derby where form and quality can go out of the window. England will need a different mindset again.
Southgate said: “Of course the profile of the team has to have balance. We’ve got certain types of midfield players, centre-backs, then there’s perhaps opportunity for the full-backs. Every team has to have balance.
“For the Croatia game the balance of the team was important. We could’ve gone a different route and had a different performance and a better performance. There’s no way of knowing that.
“We used the players we did and we’ve got some excellent fullbacks in our group. We’re going to need all of those players.
“There are so many close calls in so many positions and what we felt today was a back four really getting tight to their midfield was critical and with forwards that could cause their defenders the sorts of problems they don’t want to face.
“Whether that’s going to be the same for every game we have to review. But I was most pleased with the way all of the team settled quickly, dealt with the occasion and produced a high level of performance.”