It’s difficult to argue that Nuno Espirito Santo hasn’t done a fantastic job of nurturing maverick winger Adama Traore.
The former Middlesbrough man was far from a loose cannon when he arrived at Molineux in August 2018 – an £18m price tag is testament to that – however, the Spaniard lacked consistency and struggled at times with the very basics of the game.
Along with his backroom staff, Nuno has settled Traore and provided him with the coaching required to transform a rough diamond into a potential superstar.
However, while the departure of Matt Doherty this summer may have seemed relatively innocuous in terms of Traore’s role in the team at the time, the winger has found himself plugging the void left by the Tottenham man at right wing-back – and while the arrival of Nelson Semedo should limit this, it's something Traore clearly isn’t comfortable with at all and Nuno needs to be careful.
In both Premier League outings so far this season Traore has been deployed in the deeper role, something which on paper makes a lot of sense – he’s got the engine to cover the ground, the pace to track runners and even in midfield he’s at his best picking the ball up from deep and running at the opposition. So it sounds like he’ll do well there then, right? Wrong.
The 24-year-old has looked like a fish out of water in Wolves’ first two league games of the campaign, with his display against Sheffield United in particular coming in for much criticism.
Traore’s pace and talent has never been in question, however, the reason he never made it at Barcelona and found himself playing in the second tier of English football was his decision making, and that’s one of the reasons he can’t be trusted at right wing-back.
On numerous occasions he was caught attempting tricks and pieces of skill in his own half, leaving the Wolves bench utterly perplexed as he was almost dispossessed – fancy flicks are all fine and well when you’re 30 yards from the opposition’s goal, but in your own half it’s foolish at best.
Nuno eventually saw sense and pushed the enigmatic wideman further up the pitch in the second half against Sheffield United and he had an instant impact, running riot down the Wolves right and coming close with a long-range drive.
The second point of note when considering Traore as a right wing-back – and perhaps the most important one – is HE CAN’T DEFEND.
While he won’t have the defensive duties of an orthodox right-back, he’s still being entrusted to defend and track runners, and he showed time and time again against the Blades and Manchester City that he just doesn’t have the footballing brain to adapt.
The more time Traore spends in his own box as opposed to the opposition’s the more likely he is to cause havoc. Being sporadic and unpredictable is a fantastic facet to any winger’s game, but it’s the last thing a manager wants from a defender squaring up to a wideman in the box.
Let’s not forget that this is a footballer who only mastered the art of playing in his actual position on the wing three years ago - to go and throw him in at the deep end in a new role so soon is incredibly naive.
The departure of Diogo Jota seemed to have opened the door for Traore to become a first-team regular at Molineux, however, Nuno appears to have opted for Daniel Podence as Jota’s replacement in the Wolves front three.
While Podence has performed admirably and looks set to shine, the performances of Traore at right wing-back are cause for concern, and if Nuno doesn’t stop overestimating the capability of his eccentric winger then he’ll eventually be made to pay the price.