One of the most unique players in the Premier League seems destined for North London. It is no secret that Antonio Conte has been looking for a right wing back to fit his system given Emerson Royal’s struggles adapting to Premier League life and that Matt Doherty has lost a step since his days at Wolves.
According to reports by CBS Sports insider Fabrizio Romano, Conte could be getting his guy with another Wolves player joining Spurs: Adama Traore. While the deal isn’t done, things are coming together and it could be agreed to soon, ahead of the January transfer window closing next week. Speaking about Traore, Wolves manager Bruno Lage didn’t rule out a transfer as he has done in the past either saying, “We have a top player with us, a lovely guy. Sometimes it’s about business. I remember how much Tottenham protected Harry Kane at the beginning of the season.”
Traore has been dancing around contract negotiations for the past few years with Wolves amid interest from Barcelona and other clubs. But with his contract running out in June 2023, Wolves understand that they must act now or risk losing their man on a free transfer, which would be quite a disappointing business when just last year, fees in the realm of 60 million pounds were going around in regards to Traore.
It seems like Spurs would be able to secure Traore’s signature for around 20 million pounds, which is both a discount for Traore’s services and also another tick added to the 34 million pounds that the team has spent trying to find a starter for the position after selling Kieran Trippier to Atletico Madrid in July 2019.
Traore has been a player who gets into excellent positions but is unable to make good on those chances. So could he add to the expensive flops that Tottenham has had at the right back position?
Conte brings an identity that hasn’t been at Tottenham since Mauricio Pochettino of being a fullback whisperer after turning Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses into forces at Chelsea and then doing it again at Inter Milan with Achraf Hakimi and Ashley Young. Conte is able to find value in the transfer market by looking for players with unique skills that suit his pressing system.
So how would Adama Traore fit in at Tottenham?
Since joining Wolves in 2019, Traore has provided 11 assists and scored seven goals playing mainly as a right winger or a second forward but he would play mostly right wing back for Conte’s system. This season, Traore has completed 105 take ons in Premier League play — good for third in the league despite playing 600 minutes fewer than Raphinha.
In comparison to Emerson Royal, Traore can run circles around him as Royal has only completed 30 take ons despite playing the majority of minutes at right wing back under Conte. For players in wide positions, completing more take ons, generally means higher expected assist totals unless a player is wayward with their passing. The outliers on the chart below such as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ashley Westwood are also great at dead ball deliveries to provide assists from those situations.
Looking at Wilfred Zaha and Raphinha, it’s likely that if Conte can improve Traore’s decision-making slightly, he’ll open up critical parts of the field for Spurs. He’s a much more dynamic dribbler than Emerson and can offer Lucas Moura space to do more centrally.
In Spurs’ loss to Chelsea, the right side of the field — including Matt Doherty and Japhet Tanganga — was non-existent causing attacks that came via Ben Davies and Ryan Sessegnon to be predictable and easy to break up for Chelsea. Spacing is critical in a Conte system and as he doesn’t trust Royal to provide that, Traore can at least be an unpredictable asset with the ball at his feet.
That would allow Conte to play a front two more often when Heung-Min Son is healthy, bringing in an extra midfielder to cover up the team’s defensive issues. As Traore isn’t a slouch on the defensive side of things either, it wouldn’t be a downgrade on Royal in that aspect as Royal is prone to get caught up the pitch leaving too much space for his center backs to cover.
Traore even offers a slight aerial presence that Royal doesn’t have so long diagonal balls from the center backs would be more likely to find him. And with the move making Doherty the likely third choice for the position, it offers additional flexibility in the transfer market for Fabio Paratici during a tough January window.
Agreeing to a deal would likely see Bryan Gil go on loan to Valencia for the remainder of the season which is a win-win. As Spurs are out of Europe, there aren’t enough fixtures to get him the time that he needs at a critical development age. Gil has only logged 94 Premier League minutes and during a year without COVID would’ve likely been loaned out earlier in the season since his best position is on the left wing that is occupied by Son. Being able to push for a European spot with Valencia will give him ample space to show what he can do.
While Traore doesn’t fill Tottenham’s biggest transfer need in midfield, it does show that at times a team must be creative when top targets aren’t for sale. Conte’s men are only two points off of a Champions League place despite the turmoil that they’ve undergone in the past few years that has seen four managers (including Ryan Mason’s interim spell) try to impose different playing styles.
The Conte system is bearing fruit as Spurs have shot up the table and Traore will bring the unique skillset to ensure that the run doesn’t stagnate. Hopefully getting him in before the end of the international break will allow Conte time to go over tactics before the clash with Southampton since Traore has already played in the FA Cup and won’t be able to feature there vs. Brighton.