Comment: Wolves' Adama Traore so much more than a speed machine
A professional footballer with the pace of an Olympic sprinter is a rare thing indeed – but it’s what Wolves have in Adama Traore.
When Traore drives forward at full speed he is a sight to behold and strikes real fear into opposition defenders. And he is now showing signs his game is progressing far beyond being a raw speed machine.
His pace combined with his dribbling skills has provided Nuno Espirito Santo with a dangerous new weapon in his attacking arsenal this season.
So far Nuno has only used Traore in three Premier League games, all as a substitute.
But in each of those appearances, the 22-year-old looked dangerous and a real game-changer.
In Wolves’ last game, against West Ham, he most certainly was.
In the 93rd minute Traore sprinted half way down the pitch into space, allowing Leo Bonatini to tee him up, before slotting home the winner and earn his first Wolves goal and his side’s first victory back in the Premier League.
That is the ‘Traore effect’: the devastating impact Wolves’ record-signing can have from the bench.
The winger was better than Helder Costa and Diogo Jota against West Ham.
Nuno even acknowledged Traore’s contribution after the match – despite not liking to single out players for any type of special mention - referring to him as a ‘game changer’.
His match-winning goal warrants a starting spot in Nuno’s Premier League team.
Traore has already started once for Wolves this season against Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup where he was impressive.
We will have to wait and see if Traore is as effective at starting a game in the Premier League, compared to being a substitute, because he has been so effective from the bench.
One statistic which illustrates this is that Traore has completed the second most dribbles in the Premier League, with 12 this season, only behind Eden Hazard of Chelsea, who has 14, and who has played significantly more minutes.
Traore has only played a bit-part role for Wolves featuring in 25 per cent of their total action.
The reason Traore works so well as a substitute is because the opposition players are tired when Nuno brings him intro the fray, usually around mid-way through the second half.
This is when the game has established a particular rhythm and Traore likes to mix it all up by taking everyone on from the opposition team.
I’m not saying Nuno should stick to using Traore as a substitute, I think he deserves a starting place in the team, but he has been really effective in that role.
No matter how Nuno uses Traore though, he looks like a good buy already.
Wolves splashed out £18million on him in the summer, to break their transfer record, and that is a modest price for his talents in today’s football market.
Traore was clearly scouted for his skills and attacking abilities, despite critics raising questions about certain aspects of his overall game.
At Villa he didn’t really shine, and a Middlesbrough – where he was their star player last season picking up three gongs – he only scored five goals in two seasons, marking a low return.
But maybe Wolves have got him at exactly the right time of his career.
He developed as a footballer at Barcelona, then at Villa and Middlesbrough, and he is now ready to go up another level at Wolves under Nuno – who will be trying to get the best out of him at Molineux – and shine in the Premier League.
Nuno admits that Traore is not the finished product though.
The Wolves boss believes Traore still needs to make improvements to his game, while his team-mates also ‘need to recognise his talents more on the pitch’.
But all this will come with time on the training pitch. And Traore will help out his team-mates by providing them with competition for places in attack, most notably on the wings with Jota and Costa, who will surely be encouraged to up their game to keep their starting places.
All in all, when Wolves need an ace this season, Traore looks like being the perfect wildcard.