xGp (Expected Good Performance) returns to discuss one player who could provide the difference in a game.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
xGp, an irregular feature, is all about highlighting an opposition player that should be expected to have a good game against Aston Villa.
Fresh of the back of notching a crossed assist for Raul Jiminez’ 92nd-minute goal in the Europa League, former Aston Villa winger Adama Traore will face his former team at the Molineux stadium this Sunday – but with significant changes in his game since the last time he faced his old haunt.
Under Nuno Espirito Santo, Adama has found a new lease of life as a wing-back, using his natural strength defensively and his quicksilver speed to allow Wolverhampton Wanderers to counter-attack.
The focus that his manager has given to the converted wing-back has proved to be beneficial – with the now Mali international providing the special ingredient to Wolves’ 2-0 win against reigning champions Manchester City.
His devastating pace tore City apart, and the two goals – where he took a second to set himself before firing past Ederson – set him apart on the day. He was also defensively sound against one of the top wingers in the world, Raheem Sterling.
Traore’s form in October saw him make WhoScored‘s ‘European All Star Team of the Month’ alongside Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish – placing him as one of the most in-form players within Europe’s top five leagues with an average rating of 7.83.
Within the Premier League, despite his attacking nature, Traore’s defensive statistics hold up relatively well.
Compared to Frederic Guilbert, Adama is involved in four less defensive duels per 90 minutes on average, but the pair hold a relatively similar average success rate within these duels. Aston Villa’s French fullback makes more interceptions and tackles per 90 – but the difference isn’t huge despite Adama Traore’s relatively recent evolution.
Traore is, without a better term, adequate defensively – but provides Wolves with an added attacking edge to cut through the opposition when the Midlands outfit are on the offensive. The exceptionally strong forward-turned-defender manages around 0.89 key passes per 90 minutes and a pass accuracy within the final third of 70% – beating Guilbert on both counts in these areas. He also holds a higher xG and xA than Guilbert, but the former will be swayed by Traore’s two goals this season.
Despite this, Adama makes significantly less forward passes per game, perhaps opting to steamroll down the wing instead – but also makes more passes in the wrong direction – back towards his own half or goal. You could make the argument that Traore is less progressive than Guilbert, but there are external factors and contexts at play.
Much has changed since Adama Traore struggled to find his way out of Alan Hutton’s back pocket across both legs of the 2017/18 Play-Off Semi-Final games against Middlesbrough, and nothing more so than the impact that Traore is having on games.
The ‘wing-back’ will be riled up, even though there is no bad blood with Aston Villa, looking to get one over on his former club at the Wolves’ home ground.
Against Slovan Bratislava last night, he was played on the wing – providing a dynamic partnership with Matt Doherty – allowing the Republic of Ireland defender to burst forward at times.
He is, and can be, dangerous, and will be looking to prove himself in front of the travelling Villa fans, as well as continue his progression after being named in the European Team of the Month.
Keep an eye out for Adama – not that he’ll be hard to miss.