Adama Traore joined Middlesbrough in August 2016 for a fee in the region of around £7 million from Aston Villa. Since joining Middlesbrough though Traore has been perhaps the most frustrating figure to watch play.
Adama spent much of his early career in the Barcelona youth teams. It was Barcelona B who Aston Villa signed him from in 2015. While Barcelona clearly didn’t believe Traore was at a Barcelona level, the fact he made it all the way to there B team shows he clearly had some potential.
Unfortunately for Traore and Villa, he spent much of his season at Villa out with a series of injuries. The few games he did play in for Villa that season was as a sub. This meant Traore still had no real experience of English football when he signed for newly promoted Middlesbrough in 2016.
However, this did not stop Traore from looking incredibly exciting in the Premier League last season. Adama could beat anyone for pace and he even managed to leave Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin for dust when they came face to face last season. His dribbling ability was also superb and he could take on three-four players with ease. This was incredibly exciting and showed Boro fans he had so much potential.
Despite this though, Traore was let down in one key area, his overall end product. There was no questioning if Traore could go and beat his man. But last season 99% of the time, once he had beaten the defender, the result would be a wayward shot or an awful cross. This was incredibly annoying to watch for Middlesbrough fans. Especially when it was so obvious Traore has the ability to be a serious threat.
It was Aitor Karanka who signed Traore for Middlesbrough and it was he who was tasked with trying to improve Traore’s end product last season. The overall approach Aitor took last season seemed to be one of micromanagement. This went so far that Traore, a natural right winger, would swap wings at halftime to make sure he was on the side of the dugout. So that Karanka could shout clear instructions to him. This approach did very little good for Traore. He played 27 league games last season. But all he managed was one assist, which if you watch it back, looks more like a scuffed shot that a pass.
Karanka was then sacked late last season. Garry Monk was then appointed Boro boss over the summer. And it was left to him to try and get Traore playing well. However, much like a lot of Garry Monk’s time at Boro, he didn’t really seem to have a clear plan to unlock Traore’s potential. There were some positive signs early in the season when Traore managed two assists vs Bolton. But the game after he would be sent off inside four minutes against his old club, Aston Villa. Since that sending off Monk showed no real faith in Traore. He made just two league starts after the Villa game.
But to the joy of many Boro fans, Garry Monk was sacked before the start of the New Year. Tony Pulis would then be announced as the new manager on Boxing Day. This, many people thought, spelt the end of Traore’s time at Boro. Because when you generally think of Tony Pulis, his style of play and the players he likes, that certainly wouldn’t normally be Adama Traore. However, in less than a month in charge, Pulis already seems to have done more to help Traore than both Karanka and Monk did in a year and a half.
Traore has been a regular starter under Pulis and this has clearly helped the winger. In every game under Pulis Traore has looked a constant threat. Rather than just showing one or two glimpses of what he can do. He is becoming more and more consistent each week. Part of that is due to Pulis’s belief in him. And also, unlike Karanka who seemed to want to micromanage him and Monk who didn’t really do anything with him, Pulis appears to be playing to Adama’s strengths and giving him much more of a free-flowing role.
This was something Pulis covered in an interview after Boro’s 3-0 win over QPR. He stated ‘when we do get the ball I want him (Traore) to run forward, that’s all I’ve said, just get it and enjoy yourself’. This was something Boro’s ex-bosses were seemingly afraid of letting Traore do. As they looked to believe that the answer to Traore improving was a lot of micromanaging his game.
But in reality, all Pulis has done is shown faith in Traore. While allowing him to go out there and play his game. This is clearly working as in Middlesbrough’s last game vs QPR, Traore got both an assist and his first ever goal for Middlesbrough. He also managed an assist vs Sunderland in the cup under Pulis. This shows Traore looks to be finally improving his end product. And it would seemingly be largely down to how Tony Pulis wants him to play and his belief in him. Traore improving his end game will be a much-welcomed sight for Boro fans this season. Because if he continues to play like he has recently, he could well be the key to Boro winning promotion this season.