In Focus: Speed merchant Traore can transform Barcelona in a hurry
Adama Traore has made a fast start to life at Barcelona — but can the speed merchant transform his new club’s fortunes?
The winger joined on loan in January as one of three arrivals from the Premier League, alongside Manchester City’s Ferran Torres and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Those signings have significantly boosted manager Xavi’s attacking options after a disappointing campaign in Catalonia so far.
As Barca prepare to host Napoli in the first leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off tonight, we assess whether the addition of Traore can help them turn their season around.
Europa League success?
There is no escaping the fact that Barcelona are having a bad campaign.
The Blaugrana are 15 points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid and out of the Copa del Rey, having also dropped into the Europa League after only finishing third in their Champions League group.
However, Europe's second-tier cup competition provides an opportunity for silverware in an otherwise lost season for the Catalan giants — and Xavi will be hoping Traore’s unique skill set can help fire them to glory.
A take-on machine
Barcelona have acquired an elite dribbler in Traore.
In league football this season — for both Wolves and his new club — the wide man has attempted a whopping 8.45 take-ons per 90 minutes, completing a mammoth 6.67 per 90.
That tally is significantly ahead of any other player to have played at least 600 minutes of football in either the Premier League or LaLiga, with Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin next on the list for both metrics — attempting 7.59 take-ons per 90 and completing 4.77.
No other player in either of those two divisions has attempted over seven take-ons per 90 or completed more than four, showing how far ahead of his peers Traore is in that department.
Traore enjoyed a successful second debut for Barcelona, registering an assist in his new side’s 4-2 win over Atletico Madrid earlier this month.
Speaking after that game, Xavi hailed Traore’s decision-making, physical attributes and directness in possession.
He said: "Adama is a very mature player. He knows when to face up, when to pass and he’s chosen his moments well today.
"Physically he is an animal, a beast. He is a pure winger and he will help us. He is a great signing for the team.
"Adama makes the difference. He has power, strength, he dribbles at opponents and he’s solid in defence."
Starting in style
Traore picked up where he left off in his second appearance since returning to the club, notching another assist in a 2-2 draw with Espanyol last Sunday.
The sample size is small but the 26-year-old has recorded an open play expected assists tally of 0.35 per 90 in his two games — and is creating big chances at a rate of 0.6 per 90.
For context, the LaLiga leaders in those metrics — only considering players with at least 600 minutes in the competition — are Gerard Moreno (0.27) and Jesus Navas (0.76) respectively.
Is it sustainable?
It remains to be seen, however, whether or not Traore can maintain his excellent creative numbers in a Barcelona shirt.
His statistics at Wolves in this department from the first half of the season are far less eye-catching, with just 0.12 open play expected assists per 90 and 0.25 big chances created per 90.
If Traore is to help Barcelona to Europa League success, he will need to continue delivering this higher level of final-third production.