Talking Tactics

Neto and Traore can evade Leeds with roaming roles

By Adrian Clarke 18 Feb 2021

Adrian Clarke says Wolves should stick with system they used in second half at Southampton

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 25.

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Nuno Espirito Santo may have found the key to unlocking Wolverhampton Wanderers’ attacking potential with his tactical change last time out.

When Wolves host Leeds United, they could line up in the same formation that proved so effective in the second half at Southampton on Sunday.

Trailing 1-0 in that match, Nuno switched Pedro Neto and Adama Traore to the opposite flanks at half-time.

Neto moved to the right, and Traore to the left, with both players also encouraged to take up narrower positions to support Willian Jose, who had been isolated up front.

This combination worked well during the second half, with Neto scoring a superb solo goal as Wolves fought back to win 2-1.

Neto's winner v Southampton

By occupying central areas more regularly, the duo simultaneously freed up extra space for the wing-backs to flourish.

It will be fascinating to see if Nuno gives his two star men similar freedom to roam against Leeds.

Boosting the goal threat

Wolves have scored 25 times this season. Only Fulham (20), West Bromwich Albion (19), Burnley (18) and Sheffield United (15) have found the net on fewer occasions.

The loss of key striker Raul Jimenez to injury has of course been a major factor, but in Neto and Traore they possess two of the league's most dangerous wide forwards.

They are quick, skillful dribblers who provide regular crosses and offer creativity.

How do Neto and Traore compare?
2020/21 Neto PL rank Traore PL rank
Open-play crosses 103 3rd 87 4th
Succ. open-play crosses 24 2nd 15 12th
Open-play chances created 32 8th 32 8th
Attempted dribbles 115 3rd 138 1st
Completed dribbles 55 5th 89 1st

Neto’s five goals and four assists show what he can offer, but the 20-year-old is capable of producing even more direct goal involvements.

He has registered just 16 shots on target, ranked 29th in the competition, and for a player of his ability that figure needs to rise.

Meanwhile, Traore is yet to score or assist this term despite posting some incredible statistics in general play.

Flexible frontline

Using the pair in a more fluid three-man forward line could be the best way to get more of an end product from Neto and Traore.

The extra freedom should in theory make them more elusive and get them into better goalscoring positions.

It may also provide valuable support for on-loan striker Jose, who is still waiting for his first goal five matches into his Premier League career.

Fast start

Wolves will surely target a fast start at home against a Leeds side who have conceded 42 goals this season, second only to the 55 let in by 19th-placed West Brom.

Nuno's team have taken too long to get into their stride in 2020/21, and have relied heavily on strong second-half performances.

Teams scoring first the fewest
Fewest opening goals scored Best points average when scoring first
WOL 6 AVL 2.75
SHU 6 LEI 2.75
WBA 6 WOL 2.67
BUR 8 MCI 2.63

Meanwhile, Leeds have conceded 17 goals in the first half of away matches this season, five more than any other Premier League team.

Adopting a bolder approach from the first whistle is often a good strategy against Marcelo Bielsa's side.

Nuno can set the tone by giving Neto and Traore the freedom they enjoyed in the second half at Southampton, this time from the start.

Also in this series

Part 2: Doucoure can drive Everton to rare derby win
Part 3: Ceballos can help Arsenal press Man City
Part 4: Mac Allister could help Brighton make possession count

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