Hamed Junior Traorè

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US Sassuolo's Hamed Junior Traorè
Thomas Pearce

MAY 3, 2022

Who is Hamed Junior Traorè?

Hamed Junior Traorè started out at Boca Barco, a small sports club in Italy, after moving to Europe at a young age with his brother Amad Diallo. In 2015, whilst his brother made a move to Atalanta, Hamed joined Empoli’s youth squad. Empoli at the time were a Serie B club, and it was in that division that he would make his professional bow, and a year later, his first appearance in the top flight, and it would  be in that 2018/19 season where he would become a first-team regular.

Only one full season of Serie A football was necessary to convince Sassuolo into purchasing the young Ivorian for €17.4m on an initial two-year loan move, as is so often the case in Italy, with obligations to buy. Yet has he become a starter every week for Sassuolo, partly owing to his flexibility to play in several positions, but not quite nail down one as his own; central midfield, attacking midfield and left wing have been the three most frequent, with the occasional bout as the deepest-lying midfielder in a three. 

His recent run in the side as a left-winger, with consecutive games since early February, suggests he has finally nailed down a place in this Sassuolo team, a position which has needed filling permanently since Jérémie Boga’s January departure.

Traorè has found his firm footing in Serie A at Sassuolo, and the eye test suggests that this goalscoring run is no purple patch, and a potential pattern to be revealed in the future of his career.

US Sassuolo's Hamed Junior Traorè

Hamed Junior Traorè's style of play

Strengths

Weaknesses

Traorè stands at 5’9” himself, weighing in at 69kg, so he sits between a good balance of agility and enough strength to hold off opponents when carrying the ball. He could perhaps use a bit more muscle to battle the bigger players in Serie A, but now situated on the left-wing, he finds himself now up against smaller full-backs than he does tall and strong defensive midfielders. It is fair to say that aerially, he possesses little to no threat.

In terms of profile, Traorè ranks remarkably similar to the aforementioned Boga, almost as if the 22 year-old was the succession plan all along. That could feasibly be the case given Sassuolo’s smart transfer business. He is a prolific dribbler with an eye for goal first and creativity second. In essence, he has the same pros and cons as Boga, but he excels in different ways to the 24-year-old.

One noticeable strength that has been a common feature of his recent goalscoring run is his sharp movement off-the-ball. Traorè has a keen eye for attacks in progress, and where he should position himself to get into goal scoring positions. His quick acceleration helps him swiftly move away from any opponents marking him, and into space. It is a big factor as to how he has been scoring so many goals lately.

This was apparent in his first goal, and an attempted effort in the second-half, versus Atalanta recently. During the first goal’s build-up down the left flank, Traorè moved centrally, and kept pace with the attack, until its last moments, at which stage he sprung forward with a burst of acceleration, effectively going beyond the defensive line, and finishing with a powerful strike. He generates impressive backlift in minimal time, but sometimes the finishes feel flukey and lucky to not go cascading over the bar.

That withstanding, Traorè possesses a genuine goal threat by virtue of his ability to get into goalscoring positions consistently, on a game-by-game basis. His goal against Lazio was the perfect example of right place, right time, and the solo run that spellbinded the Salernitana defence the game before (preceding a calmly slotted goal), demonstrates his two primary methods for getting into those areas.

This has resulted in a healthy xG per 90 during this run of games spanning from early February till now. Starting from Sassuolo’s game versus Sampdoria on February 6th, till their most recent match against Cagliari on April 16th, Traorè has been generating 0.36 xG per 90, a very healthy number for a winger in Serie A. He has been finishing above the expected rate lately, but if he were to maintain his underlying number, a good goalscoring winger he will become.

This permanent transition to the left wing position has also allowed the young Ivorian to flourish with his ability on the ball. Much like Boga, but not quite to the same extent, Traorè is a high-volume dribbler, and a threat that must be approached with caution by opposition defenders. While predominantly right-footed, the 22-year-old goes inside and out when in advanced areas of the pitch, leaving him hard to read when trying to defend him 1v1. 

Though, his tendency to dribble first, pass later, can sometimes be a hindrance to his team, it should be noted. While he retains the ball well under significant opposition pressure, he has a tendency to dribble with the ball during Sassuolo counterattacks, and this has sometimes slowed down good ball progression from his teammates, and essentially starting over the good work already done. This doesn’t happen too frequently to be a real issue, but enough to notice, and an area to improve.

Read about another Sassuolo prospect: Davide Frattesi

Indeed, his ball-carrying for the most part, brings about absolute positives for his team. It is an incredibly useful asset for Sassuolo to gain entry into the final-third, typically beginning near the touch-line, and gradually spinning towards the penalty area, which is where Traorè typically releases the ball, usually in the form of a one-two, where he hopes to receives the ball again inside the box, to either go for goal, or slide it across to a teammate, normally the former. 

The latter is another area for improvement. Traorè’s key passes are inaccurate more often than not, typically as a last-ditch effort to make something of his possession, after being harried out of a shooting opportunity. Despite that, his quick feet earns him separation from his opponent regularly, and his medium-range passing from one side of the box to the other (typically aiming for Domenico Berardi) is smart and effective when accurate. 

That is his most practical method of chance creation, often generating higher-value chances than his shorter passes into the feet of his teammates, which are overhit with regularity. This pattern of play has been taken from his time in central-midfield to good effect, and it often causes a lot of problems for a defensive structure to contend with.

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Still, 0.12 xA per 90 during the same time frame stated previously, is generally subpar if we consider percentiles of wingers, and this just emphasises the young Ivorian’s strengths currently is goalscoring, not creating. 

Another feature of Traorè’s game that has transitioned well from midfield to the wing is his defensive nous. He presses at a tempered pace for the most part, never busting a gut to immediately get the ball back, but enough to hurry an opponent’s decision-making. In fact, it’s often a good middle-ground which catches players off-guard, and it adds to Traorè’s wise ability to intercept the ball frequently. 

In terms of numbers, his defensive stats are not through the roof, but the eye test definitely values his defensive work at a high level. He is efficient with the work he puts in off-the-ball, and when he does win the ball back, he does a good job of instigating counterattacks with a quick short pass, or he will carry the ball himself past opponents.

Forecasting Hamed Junior Traorè's future

In the immediacy, Sassuolo have little to play for anymore with regards to European positions, behind ten points behind 7th placed Fiorentina at current in 9th. Making sure they finish top half is the priority in order to receive the most cash possible heading into this summer’s transfer market. It’s been a mixed season overall for the Neroverdi, with some memorable wins against the top six teams, but some disappointing performances along the way.

For Traorè, another season staying put at Sassuolo would certainly be beneficial. He has finally found a position that suits his skillset, and he has little competition for that spot within the squad either – it’s absolutely his for the taking going forward. Another season continuing his progress at left-wing, and it will become easier to plan out his trajectory, but at present, it’s hard to measure. If his goalscoring were to continue, links to Serie A’s biggest clubs should come as no shock. 

The more likely case for the Ivorian is that he middles out at about a goal every third game, and if he can improve his creativity, that’s more than good enough to warrant a move to a bigger side. He is a well-rounded player for his position, able to apply himself in numerous roles on the field, and that is a competency becoming ever so important for coaches across the footballing globe – it leaves him in good stead.

scoutedftbl.com

Hamed Junior Traorè is a technical and intelligent attacker that has really sharp movement off the ball which carries much of his threat. He’s also a capable defender, making him a good fit for pressing teams.

He lacks a consistent creative threat in attack and can also hold onto the ball for too long at times.

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