Adama Traoré is the king of the dribble.
In 2016/17, he burst onto the scene in the Premier League to top Europe’s dribble charts. In 2017/18, he made Championship defenders wish they were in League One to get away from him, again topping Europe’s dribble charts.
In 2018/19, he’s been sat on the bench to the extent that any list which uses a cut-off point for minutes played might not feature him. But if it did feature him, he’d be topping it again.
Incredibly, Traoré hasn’t dipped below seven successful take-ons per 90 minutes in the past three seasons. Most years you can count the number of people who average over five on one hand. That’s how bizarre the Spaniard is.
King Adama of the Dribble
Successful take-ons per 90, in the league
A message from an Olympian
For a while, there wasn’t much else to the youngster’s game, though. Until he met former British sprinter Darren Campbell, who told Traoré to slow down.
“What athletics taught me is because I was so fast, it creates a lot more time to make decisions,” Campbell said.
“And with him being so fast, it was like, ‘OK, everything I'm trying to do is at speed'. You're trying to pass the ball at 100mph, trying to cross at 100mph, there’s no control. When you run your head is all over the place.
“I said to him, ‘you're so fast, you could beat every player at 80%, so let me show you how to run at 80% and that will still give you a lot more time’.”
And it worked.
Last season he claimed ten assists in the Championship for Middlesbrough, and, although he hasn’t set any up in 2018/19 so far, his improved decision-making has been noted.
We could look at passes into the 18-yard-box as a measure of this, but possession-based teams dominate this metric because of the way they camp in the final third.
However, a lot of these passes often go into the wide areas of the penalty box, they aren’t particularly dangerous. It’s the passes going into the centre of the area – what some call the ‘danger zone’ – that we should look out for.
Out of players to have played more than 180 minutes in the Premier League this season, Traoré has the fourth-best rate of making these passes.
Passes into the 'danger zone' per 90 minutes
|Name||Danger zone passes per 90|
Unsurprisingly, he’s also producing good chances. The chances he’s set up have been worth 0.45 expected goals per 90 minutes, not far off the Premier League’s leader Raheem Sterling (0.51).
If his team-mates finished a little better, he could easily have a couple of assists already.
Presumably, Wolves are keeping him on the bench so that he's ready in concentrated bursts, when they absolutely need him.
And, presumably, Traoré will just keep improving, which is a scary prospect for full-backs everywhere.