Adama Dozen: Can Traore be a great back-up to Reece James?

The summer transfer window is in full swing now with sides already getting business done ahead of the 2021/2022 campaign. Although Euro 2020 and the Copa America are currently taking place, this hasn’t stopped clubs from getting deals completed. Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea are yet to have made any signings though there has been a lot of speculation surrounding certain positions. One position within the Chelsea side that has very much been spoken about of late is right-wing-back. Wolves’ Adama Traore has emerged as one of the main candidates.

Adama Traore celebrates scoring for Wolves away at Manchester City in October 2019. (Photo by Alex Livesey via Getty Images)

For many weeks, the Blues had been linked with Inter Milan and Moroccan international Achraf Hakimi. Chelsea had battled it out with Paris Saint-Germain for his signature. However, the Ligue 1 club reached an agreement with Inter for a fee of €60m plus €10m in add-ons. With Hakimi now off to the Parc de Princes, Adama Traore is now the main target at wing-back. Tuchel has been very much keen on the Wolves speedster, who would come at a much cheaper price.

Traore’s footballing career so far

Born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat in Barcelona, to Malian parents, Traore was eligible to represent both Mali and Spain. He was part of the Barcelona youth team from the age of eight up until 17, where he was then promoted to the Barcelona B team in 2013 whilst also playing a few games for the senior team. The winger won the UEFA Youth League, Spanish Cup and Spanish Super Cup during his time with the Catelonian giants. Traore was there until 2015 where he then secured a move to Aston Villa, signing on a five-year deal. However, he had an unsuccessful spell at Villa Park, scoring just the once that season in a League Cup match. The club were also relegated to the Championship in 20th place with just three league wins all season.

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Traore lasted one season at Aston Villa as in 2016, he moved to Middlesbrough in a swap-deal involving Albert Adomah. During his first season at the Riverside, he played 31 matches but didn’t register a single goal as the club were relegated straight back down to the Championship after just one season. However, Traore stayed at the club for the 2017/2018 season which ended up being a breakthrough campaign for the winger. He played under Garry Monk and then Tony Pulis as his pace caused many problems for opposing defenders. He ended the season with a total of five goals and 12 assists across all competitions. Middlesbrough reached the Championship play-offs where they lost out to Aston Villa in the semi-finals. After a great season though, Traore won the club’s Fans’ Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards.

His brilliant performances earned him a move to newly-promoted Premier League side Wolves ahead of the 2018/2019 campaign. He joined on a five-year deal for a fee in the region of £18m. Traore scored his first Premier League goal as he netted a late winner at West Ham in a 1-0 victory. It proved to be his only goal that season but Wolves had an excellent campaign, finishing in 7th place and qualifying for the Europa League.

The following campaign, Traore netted a brace in a brilliant win away at the reigning champions Manchester City. Not only that, he also scored his first European goal in a thrilling 3-3 draw away at Braga and scored his first Molineux goal in a 2-1 loss to Spurs. Adama ended the 19/20 season with six goals and 12 assists.

Traore remained at Wolves for the 2020/2021 season as the club prepared for their third successive campaign in the top flight. The Midlands club made a strong start but at the end of November, they lost striker Raúl Jiménez to a horrific head injury as Wolves’ form dipped throughout the remainder of the season. However, for Adama, it wasn’t until January 2021 where he netted his first goal of the campaign. He scored a wonder strike against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup 3rd Round on his 100th Wolves appearance.

He netted his first league goal of the season in April, scoring the winning goal away at Fulham. As well as this, he scored his second a month or so later in a 2-1 win over Brighton. The Spanish international finished the season with a total of three goals and three assists. Following the conclusion of the Premier League season, Luis Enrique included Traore in Spain’s 24-man squad for Euro 2020.

Where would Adama Traore fit in at Chelsea?

Since Thomas Tuchel’s appointment in January, he has been using a three-at-the-back formation that has worked very well. The same system was also used by Antonio Conte from his spell at the Bridge between 2016 to 2018. The right-wing-back role at the start of Tuchel’s reign was first occupied by Callum Hudson-Odoi, which he had performed very well in. However, as the season went on, Reece James was the main starter in that position over Hudson-Odoi. The majority of the matches using that formation mainly saw James starting in that role. Hudson-Odoi and captain Cesar Azpilicueta also played that position too. However, Azpilicueta has been more suited to playing in the back-three. Meanwhile, for Hudson-Odoi, he can be considered a good option at times but is much better in an attacking role.

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Reece James is no doubt the man to start at RWB, being one of the standout performers for Chelsea. When it comes to other players in that position, there doesn’t seem to be as much cover in that area. This is why a player such as Adama Traore would be a solid option to have for potentially playing as a back-up to James or even to provide competition with the Englishman. With the Blues sometimes playing in up to three matches per week, having plenty of cover in every position is vital for Chelsea in order to avoid tiredness or even in the case that someone like Reece James gets injured.

What could Traore bring to Stamford Bridge?

Adama Traore may not seem like the best of options for Chelsea to sign but he may come at a cheap price. It is likely that the Blues would have to pay around £25m for the Wolves winger. Traore is best known for his strength and huge physique while he also known for his blistering pace.. His speed is a huge positive as going forward, he would be key to starting any attack where you would have players such as Kai Havertz further upfield to finish off any chances he creates.

Before joining Wolves, Adama lacked that ‘end product’ but Nuno Espirito Santo has been able to get the best out of him. With Nuno having left Wolves though, this could be a chance for Traore to move to a club like Chelsea and see how Thomas Tuchel would be able to utilise him.

The 25-year-old has reached blistering speeds of 23.61mph in training and even 22mph in matches. In a Europa League match against Sevilla last year, Traore went on a scintillating run at a speed of 37km/h (22.9mph). The Spaniard has come up clutch at time and was remembered very well for his brace he scored at the Etihad against Manchester City in the 19/20 season. Also, in the reverse fixture, he scored and assisted as Wolves came from 2-0 down to win 3-2. Those performances are certainly seen as an example of how good he can be on his day. As well as this, he would arrive with that Premier League experience having had five seasons in the top flight.

Is there any negatives about him?

Although Traore has blistering pace and strength, one concern for Chelsea fans would be his lack of goal contributions. From his 140 Premier League appearances, he has scored just seven goals and assisted 14 times which isn’t good reading. Secondly, the 25-year-old has been relegated twice from the top flight with two different clubs in Aston Villa and Middlesbrough which doesn’t bode well for a club like Chelsea.

As well as this, the Spaniard has come off the back of a disappointing campaign for Wolves so not many people have rated him highly as before. Traore can certainly bring a lot to West London and have an impact as a whole on the team. Finally, a question that may be asked by fans, is he what Chelsea need to move forward as a club? The Blues have come off the back of a successful season having won their second Champions League trophy, finishing in the top four and reaching an FA Cup Final so would there be much point in buying an ‘average’ player from a mid-table Premier League side?

Finally, is Traore the right choice for Chelsea?

Of course it was gutting to have missed out on signing Hakimi but from the money we were going to spend on him, would it have been worth strengthening on a position we didn’t really need to? Reece James has very much nailed down a starting place in the Chelsea line-up so splashing out €60m or so wasn’t really necessary as it could have been spent on other positions such as at striker. Instead, signing Traore may be better business and he would only cost us just over half the price of Hakimi. With a hectic fixture schedule at times, Traore could be the right man to help provide cover. I do believe he can prove to be a good option but only time will tell.

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However, flashback to the 2017 summer transfer window where Antonio Conte’s Chelsea had missed out on some top targets. This was the same case at right-wing-back as we had been linked with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who decided to move to Liverpool instead. As an alternative, the club panicked and on deadline day brought in an unknown Davide Zappacosta from Torino. He started off well at first but he was not the right man in the end and it’s likely he will be sold this summer. I fear that the same outcome could happen if we sign Traore. If that happens though, I would still be very much open to the idea of him coming to Stamford Bridge.

Written and Edited by Matt North (@MattNorth_)

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