Newcastle defenders dominating Dream Team this season led by imperious Kieran Trippier

    NEWCASTLE’S rise from a side threatened by relegation to one in contention for Champions League qualification has been remarkably swift.

    Masterminded by the knowledgeable Eddie Howe, the Magpies have benefited from the considerable wealth of their Saudi ownership but as of yet their signings have been smart acquisitions rather than extravagances, with the possible exception of Alexander Isak (£3.6m) who has played just 244 minutes of football in black and white stripes.

    The likes of Nick Pope (£4.3m), Matt Targett (£3.9m), Dan Burn (£3.8m), Joe Willock (£2.3m), and Chris Wood (£2.2m) are all fine players but it’s fair to say they were not previously seen as a crop capable of propelling a bottom-half club into the top three in rapid time – credit to Howe for maximising the squad’s potential.

    Bruno Guimaraes (£3.7m) and Sven Botman (£4m) could be considered higher-calibre arrivals with appropriately plump fees but perhaps the most decisive transfer of the Saudi era so far is that of Kieran Trippier (£5.7m).

    Dream Team's top defender

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    Dream Team’s top defender

    Acquired for just £12million a few months after he helped Atletico Madrid win La Liga, the England international was instantly installed as a leader among the squad.

    Now vice-captain, he wears the armband more often than not as club captain Jamaal Lascelles (£3.2m) is rarely a starter.

    As with most notable full-backs in the modern era, Trippier contributes as much (or more) in attack as he does in defence.

    In fact, this season, only Kevin De Bruyne (£8m) has accumulated more expected assists (xA) in the Premier League than Newcastle’s No2, who can count himself a fraction unlucky not to have more than five assists (all competitons) to his name this term.

    There are a few attack-minded full-backs who are vulnerable at the back but Trippier could not be included in such a group as he is a key component of the Premier League’s best defence currently.

    The Toon have conceded just 11 goals in 2022/23, three fewer than Arsenal and five fewer than Manchester City.

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    Howe has done a fantastic job at St James' Park

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    Howe has done a fantastic job at St James’ ParkCredit: getty

    And it’s this dual success that has made Trippier one of the standout assets in Dream Team.

    Having collected 7+ ratings and Star Man awards for fun on top of his clean sheets and attacking contributions, he’s amassed 135 points to date.

    Joao Cancelo (£6.5m) is the next-best defender and he’s now a full 43 points adrift.

    While the Three Lions’ right-back is the undisputed leader, it’s the prosperous nature of Newcastle’s defence as a collective that is most notable.

    Newcastle defenders are thriving in Dream Team

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    Newcastle defenders are thriving in Dream Team

    Fabian Schar (£3.7m) is now the third-best asset in his position (87 points) after two consecutive clean sheets following the mid-season break.

    Botman is ninth among defenders with 74 points and Burn is one place outside the top ten with 65 points.

    Dream Team bosses should seriously consider pairing Trippier with another of his team-mates (or two) as those that have done in recent months have been handsomely rewarded.

    The resolve of Howe’s men will be tested this evening when they take on league-leaders Arsenal at the Emirates but all signs suggest there will be plentiful clean sheets for St James’ Park residents this term.

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