Last season, Wolves became the Premier League’s surprise package. A 2018/19 campaign which saw them finish seventh and secure a place in Europe also included memorable wins against Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal. Their performances were driven by the likes of Ruben Neves, Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota and Joao Moutinho.
Adama Traore is Now Key Player For Wolves
Wolves are matching their achievements of last year with impressive consistency this season but it is another player who is now catching the eye – Adama Traore. Known as someone with immense physical qualities, such as speed and power, the winger is now developing his game into one with an improved all-round skill set.
Traore has completed the most take-ons (132) of any player in the Premier League this season, with Wilfried Zaha (120) the only other player to pass 100. To put it into further context, Traore has played fewer minutes (1,928) than the Crystal Palace forward (2,815).
While Traore may have before been guilty of only showing flashes of his dribbling talent, he is now finding consistency to make him a reliable threat on the flank for Wolves. The 23-year-old has completed ten or more dribbles during a game on four different occasions, including 15 against Watford – the most by any player in a match.
The stats are impressive but it is Traore’s performances, especially against some of the bigger teams, which have really excited viewers. He recently gave Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, widely regarded as the best left-back in the country, a very difficult time with his direction as much as his pace and power.
“He is unplayable in moments, it’s unbelievable,” Liverpool manager Klopp said of Traore at full-time. “What a player – it’s not only him but he’s so good.” The Reds may have come out as 2-1 winners but it was Traore who stole the show, completing four dribbles, taking two shots and providing the cross for Jimenez’s headed equaliser. He was a constant threat all evening.
Traore’s dribbling and physical attributes have always made him a talent but he is beginning to add quality to his game too. He now has four goals and seven assists this season, compared to one goal and one assist during the whole of the 2018/19 campaign, admittedly in just 884 minutes played.
While Traore has produced in front of goal before, scoring five times and producing ten assists in his final season for Middlesbrough in the Championship, the improvement in his attacking quality in the Premier League demonstrates that his enormous potential is on the way to being fulfilled.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has used Traore in different positions, such as a wing-back in a 3-5-2, as well as a centre-forward in the same formation. It is in the 4-3-3 system, however, where Traore is finding his best form. He operates on the right side of a front three, which allows him to focus his efforts on attacks and developing his end product.
Although stats show that Traore is, in fact, averaging fewer dribbles this season than at any point in his career so far, his success rate in this attribute is over 70% – his highest yet and better than the likes of Son Heung-Min, Willian, James Maddison, Jack Grealish, Nicholas Pepe, and Felipe Anderson.
Traore’s performances have shown that his decision making is also improving and the effectiveness of his dribbles are helping give Wolves a more dynamic option out wide. His two cool finishes sealed an impressive win away to Manchester City in October and the decision by Santo to move Traore into a striker role inspired a 3-2 win at Southampton after being 2-0 down.
Not only that, due to his reputation, teams are now more focused on dealing with Traore than ever before. This means that while opposition players are getting dragged into covering the winger’s threat, more space is being created for other attackers, such as Jimenez, Jota and Pedro Neto to run into and affect attacks.
Indeed, the trust from Santo in Traore’s ability, as well as figuring out where to utilise him, has been key. “We don’t give up on players ever – we try to improve them,” the Wolves boss said in December. “That is the growing and the natural process. Some players take longer, and some players can express themselves sooner in the team.
“You need patience, which is the best way to improve them. If he doesn’t give you a fantastic answer or fantastic performance in one game or during a period, you cannot give up.”
Activity in the recent January transfer window was subdued but, with several high profile wingers around Europe set for moves this summer, interest in Traore from a number of top clubs is likely to increase.
Wolves will be aware the battle ahead of them to keep the winger but, for now, the club are appreciating him more and more. Traore is now becoming a match-winner for his side and you would be forgiven for thinking that his potentially thrilling career is about to get better and better.