COMMENT By Seye Omidiora Follow on Twitter
In isolation, Serge Aurier’s transfer fee of around £25 million to Tottenham Hotspur last season could be tagged a bargain, given the nature of the market these days.
On the other hand, when put into context, you realize the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back’s fee ranks among Spurs’ 10 most expensive signings of all-time, and great things were expected upon his arrival.
Given Kyle Walker’s big-money move to Manchester City, and Mauricio Pochettino’s subsequent purchase of the much-cheaper Aurier, the Lilywhites were praised for signing the Ivorian, who was tipped to shine in the glamorous Premier League and, in turn, replace the departed Walker.
However, a year on, Aurier hasn't proved to be Walker's replacement. Instead, that accolade goes to another man – Kieran Trippier – who has come on in leaps and bounds since the former right-back exited North London in the summer of 2017.
The Englishman has had a whirlwind 18 months in which he’s gone from fall-back option at Spurs to being first choice wing-back for the England national team at the World Cup in Russia.
The turning point for him was surely when Walker, in the middle of a title chase with Chelsea, told Pochettino he wanted out of the club. Angered by the player’s supposed selfishness, the Argentinian gave Trippier more game time in the last few weeks of the campaign, and the would-be back-up gave as good as he got. He hasn’t looked back since.
In all honesty, the aforementioned affair gave the England international a head start over Aurier, who was arguably fighting a losing battle before he’d even set a foot in England.
It’d have been unfair to hand the reins to an unproven new signing when the incumbent hadn’t disappointed, and the wisest decision was to keep Trippier as first-choice until; either his standards slipped or Aurier proved his superiority.
Having earned himself a reputation for being a classic ‘toss of a coin’ player in the past, on account of his propensity for being extraordinarily good and incorrigible in equal measure, he needed to earn the trust of his manager, teammates and fans early doors.
However, his sending off in a 3-2 win over West Ham United raised eyebrows. Two yellows in the space of six minutes – with his side 3-1 up at the time – were baffling, and it put his side in a precarious position for the rest of the game.
Another huge moment in the season came months later in Spurs’ Champions League Round-of-16 game against Juventus, when the unpredictable defender almost cost his side yet again.
Having done really well to halve the 2-0 deficit, the firebrand Aurier then conceded a silly penalty on the stroke of half-time that could’ve sent Juve 3-1 up. His blushes were spared by Gonzalo Higuain hitting the crossbar.
Tottenham went on to peg the Old Lady back as it ended 2-2 on the night, but Aurier's rashness left a lasting impression.
It’s not all been doom and gloom for the former PSG man however; as he proved in Tottenham’s 4-1 hammering of Liverpool, he can apply himself accordingly when his head is right.
On the day, Aurier was deployed in a somewhat unfamiliar role at left-back, mainly in an attempt to nullify the in-form Mohamed Salah, and Pochettino’s plan worked considerably well – regardless of the Egyptian’s goal.
However, those days have been few and far between in a Spurs shirt.
On his day and when he’s on his game, the rampaging Aurier’s range of abilities shine through, as his pace, power and dribbling with the ball is apparent, while his superiority in the air when compared to Trippier is underrated.
He’s also more proactive in his defending, and is likely to make more interceptions, whilst winning more duels and tackles than his teammate.
The Englishman, on the other hand, is a bit more refined in his play, and his superior passing and final ball – with crosses and set-pieces – are huge assets for him. Also more disciplined positionally, he’s unlikely to be found wanting, as opposed to Aurier, who at times can be caught out.
Aurier is the more talented of the pair, and delivered a fine display in defeat by Internazionale on Tuesday, while his game is also multi-faceted. However, Trippier's recent troubles don't completely override his reliability, which makes him every manager’s dream.
That is why the former Burnley full-back has risen in the last 18 months and is making himself indispensable for club and country – and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Trippier’s superior consistency gives him the edge over an unpredictable Aurier, and the tenacious Ivorian will either need to surpass his team-mate’s dependability, or match it at least, if he’s to have any chance of usurping the ever-improving 'Burnley Beckham' in Pochettino’s Tottenham setup.