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Tom Clarke provides a comprehensive scout report about Adama Traore, Middlesbrough’s tricky young winger.
Once hailed by Grup 14 as the best young winger in the world and one of the brightest prospects at Barcelona, La Masia graduate Adama Traoré has caught the eye at Middlesbrough, recently breaking into the starting eleven. The 20-year-old left Barça in 2015 in order to follow his dream of making an impact in the Premier League, and has this season become one of Aitor Karanka’s key tools. His pace and trickery make him exciting to watch, and exciting he is for Middlesbrough fans as a prospect for the future. After dodging a challenge from Sergio Aguero before instantly spinning away from Kevin De Bruyne; as well as later running past three defenders to create the move which resulted in Middlesbrough’s late equaliser at Manchester City at the weekend, the Spaniard left many fans impressed by his moments of brilliance.
Seven players aged 25 and under departed Barcelona last summer. As it becomes a regular occurrence for young players at the Nou Camp to seek a future, short- or long-term, elsewhere, we have been watching a potential success story of that trend.
Born in Barcelona in 1996 to Malian parents, the youngster commonly known simply as Adama was spotted playing for a local team aged just eight and joined Barcelona’s La Masia. Adama featured mainly for Barcelona B during his time at the Nou Camp but made three substitute appearances for the first team, replacing Neymar late on in a 4-0 win over Granada aged 17, and appearing three days later in the Champions League as an 82nd minute substitute against Ajax in a group stage game. Then in December 2014, nine months before leaving the Catalonian giants, he scored for the first team off the bench in an 8-1 win against SD Huesca in the Copa Del Rey.
In August 2015, Adama joined the ill-fated Aston Villa squad of last season for a reported £7 million with a three-year buy back clause in his contract. He made 11 substitute appearances in the league, as well as scoring for the Villains in the League Cup second round against Notts County. He was dropped from the team due to disciplinary issues later in the season, as Villa were relegated without barely as much as a whimper.
Aitor Karanka swooped in for Adama on deadline day, signing the Spaniard on a four-year deal for an undisclosed fee. The winger made three substitute appearances against Crystal Palace, Spurs, and Watford respectively in which he showed so much promise that he was given a starting place in the 0-0 draw against Arsenal and the 2-0 win at home to Bournemouth in the following weeks. He kept his place in the team against Manchester City, and has the potential to light up a game with his pace and flair.
Adama is a pacy, energetic winger who likes to take on and run at defenders. Useful on the counter attack, none of his teammates have attempted more take-ons on the three occasions he has started so far this term. Despite his team seeing just 29% possession against Manchester City, Adama attempted 12 take-ons. Never holding back a chance to show off his flair, Adama provides a headache for defenders and can create chances for his teammates. This shows his confidence at the highest level, which will put him in good stead this season.
Despite being slightly shorter than other players at five foot eight, Adama makes up for his lack of height with his muscular stature. This makes it difficult for defenders to push him off the ball. He is useful on the counter attack, which could be vital for Middlesbrough this season as a newly-promoted team looking to catch some of the top sides on the break. A perfect example of this was against Manchester City when Adama played a crucial part in the move that led to Boro’s equaliser, beating several City defenders before his pass ricocheted off Aleix Garcia Serrano to George Friend who crossed it into Marten De Roon to head home in stoppage time.
As aforementioned, Adama’s ability to take on defenders is probably his main strength, attempting a take-on just over every 5 and a half minutes on average out of the 327 minutes he has played so far this season. Half of these take-ons have been successful, however nine out of thirteen attempted take-ons against Manchester City were successful. These can be shown in the diagram below:
For a young player, Adama has good energy levels as he has lasted at least 90 minutes in each of the three games he has started this term. His dribbling remains consistent throughout matches, and this aspect is another of his strengths when combined with his pace – being one of the fastest wingers in the league.
Adama has potential to create chances, although he hasn’t created many so far this season. He played a key through ball to Adam Forshaw in one of Middlesbrough’s best chances against Manchester City, and also created a goalscoring chance for his team in the 0-0 draw against Arsenal. In addition, he has a higher average percentage of duels won than any other regular starting outfield player in the Middlesbrough team (59%).
Apart from forwards and goalkeepers, Adama has the lowest pass accuracy in the Middlesbrough team this season. His passing is something which requires work, and despite some specific work in training showing in games with improved passing accuracy of recent, this is one of the weaker aspects to his game. Adama’s crossing also is something that requires improvement, and his end product in general. His strengths at the moment are mainly on the ball alone, as he has managed just two shots in his six appearances and has only a 23% crossing accuracy from his six appearances. The diagram below shows Adama’s contributions in the 2-0 victory over Bournemouth, as you can see his distribution into the box requires work:
Still mainly a raw talent who requires one-to-one coaching on the above aspects of his game, if Adama can improve his end product he could become one of the most exciting wingers in the league. He has an average of one defensive action per game, and could do with getting back more as he is aggressive enough to win the ball and begin a counter attack himself. Primarily an attacking winger though, if Adama can add goals to his game he can be one of the main dangers in the Middlesbrough team going forward. In a system that often operates with a lone striker, he can provide chances if he can improve his crossing.
Adama has also encountered disciplinary issues during his career. For example, his rather speedy exit from Barcelona prompted some to wonder whether something had occurred out of the public eye. In addition, his exclusion from the Aston Villa squad last year due to indiscipline shows that he needs to mature as he grows and adopt the correct attitude for a professional footballer. Now seems a great chance for him to solidify his place in a top-tier starting eleven and show what he can do on the biggest stage whilst working on his game behind the scenes.
His manager Karanka recognises Adama’s weaknesses but has spoke of how he is very much a work in progress, saying: “I have to keep teaching him things. I have had another meeting with him this week because he is young and he still has a lot of things to learn… He is making mistakes; I have to fix those mistakes with him on the videos because he needs to learn.” Karanka continued, “If you like to work as a coach, then having someone like him is a really good challenge. To bring in a player who didn’t really play a game last season, and try and get him to play his best again, is a good challenge for a coach. For that reason, I am spending a lot of time with him on the training pitch and in the video room. I think that he is a player who is worth it.”
With a lot to work on, Adama remains an exciting prospect who could go on to fulfil the potential La Masia scouts saw in him when he was just eight years old, providing he improves his game while he’s young.
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