The league’s third-best dribbler has become the third-best crosser as Adrian Clarke analyses the Wolves winger’s progress

Adrian Clarke is looking at key tactical points ahead of Matchweek 16.

BHA    WOL 

It has not always been easy to fit Adama Traore into the Wolverhampton Wanderers team but a recent tactical switch has made the winger the star of the show.

Early on this season Traore was occasionally used as a right wing-back, competing with the excellent Matt Doherty for a starting spot in a 3-5-2 formation.

But since the switch back to a 3-4-2-1 system at the start of November, the athletic 23-year-old has made a more attacking position his own.

Released from certain defensive duties and able to use his pace and trickery higher up the pitch, Traore has been an absolute revelation.

Across the last five Premier League matches he has delivered a remarkable 37 crosses from open play, a figure that exceeds his total from the entirety of last season.

He has also averaged five successful dribbles per outing.

Causing mayhem and frightening defenders, Traore has helped Wolves take 11 points from the last 15 available.

Position change boosts Traore
2019/20 Right wing-back Right attacking midfield
Starts 5 7
Open-play crosses 17 50
Succ. dribbles 17 31
Wolves points/match 1.0 2.2

Traore is undoubtedly one of the most exciting attacking midfielders in the Premier League.

He ranks third for dribbles attempted, dribbles completed and successful open-play crosses.

The speedy Spaniard is now supplying the kind of end product that matches his talent.

In his current vein of form, it is hard to envisage him being omitted from the starting line-up at Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.

Best crossers and dribblers per 90
Open-play crosses Succ. open-play crosses
Alexander-Arnold 6.8 Zinchenko 1.2
De Bruyne 6.0 Mendy 1.2
Traore 5.8 Traore 1.1
Dribbles attempted Dribbles completed
Saint-Maximin 10.5 Saint-Maximin 6.0
Zaha 8.0 Zaha 4.8
Traore 7.3 Traore 4.5

Shrinking his central midfield unit from three to two players was a gamble from Nuno Espirito Santo, but introducing an extra forward has paid off.

Together, the unpredictability of Traore and Diogo Jota in behind Raul Jimenez has injected fresh life into their attacks.

In wide areas there are more opportunities to create 2v1 overloads than when they played in a 3-5-2 system.

When Wolves operated in that previous shape, Jimenez or Jota were often dragged wide to help set up those combinations down the sides.

This left Wolves light of bodies in the box, which is no longer an issue.

With Jota or Traore linking with their respective wing-backs, Jimenez can stay inside the 18-yard box as moves develop.

Three goals in his last five Premier League starts would indicate that this suits him.

Best at breakaways

Since promotion to the Premier League, Wolves have been at their best as a counter-attacking side.

A strong tactical structure without the ball enables them to defend well for long periods, before launching incisive transitions.

This strategy was shown at its best in the 2-0 win at Manchester City this season, when Traore broke clear to score from two late counters from one end of the pitch to the other.

No Premier League team have had more successful fast breaks this term.

Their total of 21 is four more than Leicester City, and a lot of that is down to Traore’s talents.

Most fast breaks this season
Club Total Club Total
Wolves 21 Newcastle 14
Leicester 17 Man City 13
Man Utd 15 Spurs 13

Traore’s speed and skill can transform defence into attack in the blink of an eye.

Brighton, who like playing possession football under Graham Potter, must ensure they do not leave themselves open to devastating counters at the Amex Stadium.

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