Stats: Middlesbrough’s dribble king Adama Traore equals Eden Hazard | Kwesé

Stats: Middlesbrough’s dribble king Adama Traore equals Eden Hazard

Stats: Middlesbrough’s dribble king Adama Traore equals Eden Hazard

11:45 SAST | 06 Apr 2017

Middlesbrough have been criticised for a lack of attacking verve this season, but the form of wonderkid Adama Traore keeps hope of an unlikely Premier League survival alive.

According to Opta, the Hispano-Malian wideman has completed a league-high 121 dribbles this season, with only Chelsea’s Eden Hazard able to match that eye-catching number.

It’s a significant feat for a player outside the top half of the table, and particularly one playing for one of the division’s genuine strugglers.

In terms of average dribbles per match, Traore actually eclipses Hazard, with the Boro wideman averaging a whipping 5.5 every fixture, compared to 4.5 for the Belgium superstar.

African duo Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace and Southampton’s Sofiane Boufal are third and fourth after averaging 4.2 and 3.4 dribbles per match respectively, with Mousa Dembele of Tottenham Hotspur in fifth.

Putting Traore’s achievement in context: over Europe’s five major leagues, there’s no player who’s averaged more dribbles per match, with Barcelona’s Neymar – with 5.4 – coming closest.

The 21-year-old’s fine form gives some retrospective credence to the words of Tim Sherwood when he signed the winger for Aston Villa 18 months ago, with the former Tottenham Hotspur boss proclaiming the Barca product as a player who combined the qualities of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Yet, despite all of his qualities, Traore has made zero decisive contributions – either goals or assists – fuelling the argument that for all his flash and flair, he lacks an end product.

Of course, he ultimately flopped at Villa, and looks destined to taste another relegation with Boro unless they can significantly turn their season around in these final weeks of the campaign.

With nine games to play, Middlesbrough find themselves 19th on 23 points, and five behind Swansea City in 17th.

They’re without a win in 12 league games, stretching back to mid-December, and still haven’t found a permanent replacement for Aitor Karanka, who was dismissed on 16 March.

For all Traore’s sterling work in wide areas, Boro lack a cutting edge up front, and their relegation concerns are due, in no small part, to their failure to find the net.

The Smoggies’ defensive record is admirable. Only Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have conceded fewer goals, but they’re the lowest scorers in the league after managing just 20 goals in 29 matches.

As they head towards the season’s end, and particularly in Wednesday evening’s showdown with fellow strugglers Hull City at the KCOM Stadium, Steve Agnew will be desperate for his attacking players to step up and take responsibility for Boro’s future.

In Traore, he possesses one of the league’s most eye-catching widemen, but the west African and his team-mates appear destined for the second tier unless they can find a cutting edge.

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