That is not to say it was all light touch: in some games, Pulis would switch Traoré’s position so that he was on the wing closest to the manager, so that he could coach him through games. The key, Pulis said, was gaining his trust. It worked: the two are still in touch. Even now, Pulis will send Traoré a message if he feels he has played well, or if he has noticed something he might have done differently.
Traoré’s success at Wolves — he signed for the club after its promotion to the Premier League, in 2018 — can be traced to Nuno’s decision to try a similar approach. Initially, his plan was to harness Traoré’s abilities in service of the team. He asked him to focus on making specific runs, or to follow certain patterns. As others had found, though, the strategy seemed to dull Traoré’s primary threat.
Gradually, Nuno and his staff realized the precise opposite was required. He accepted that, with Traoré in his team, he could never have what his coaches refer to as a “symmetrical playbook.” Traoré’s qualities could not be maximized in a traditional, neat formation.
Instead, he encouraged the rest of his players to adapt their games to allow Traoré to flourish, to accept that there would be times when he would lose the ball, or make runs so that he might find space. They encouraged him to take risks, rather than chastising him for daring to be different.
It worked: over the course of the last 18 months, the players have recognized the best way to utilize the weapon at their disposal. The team now instinctively shifts to cover whatever shortfall Traoré leaves. As opponents have become more conscious of the threat he poses, Nuno has started to change his position during games. His teammates dutifully adapt.
At the same time, Traoré has worked on his own shortcomings: improving his crossing, learning to control his speed to allow teammates to catch up with his bursts of pace, integrating his own qualities into Nuno’s plans.
After all this time, as Klopp said, Traoré has found his manager: one who does not want to change him, but one who is happy to change for him. Everyone who has worked with him agrees that Traoré is unique. It took until Pulis, and then Nuno, for anyone to understand what that means.