When a player makes his maiden appearance in English football four days after arriving in the country, they can usually be forgiven for not producing a stellar performance.
However, given Nelson Semedo’s pre-match instructions before Wolves’ clash with West Ham will most likely have been no more detailed than ‘make sure the monster over there having baby oil caressed into his arms gets as much space as possible’, the excuse doesn’t carry so much weight.
The right wing-back is the latest addition to Wolves’ growing contingent of Portuguese players having arrived from Barcelona in a deal worth up to a reported €40m.
The departure of Matt Doherty to Tottenham meant the club were desperate for an adventurous right wing-back to fill the void left by the new Spurs man, and on paper the capture of the 26-year-old looked an upgrade.
However, Semedo’s performance in the 4-0 thrashing at the London Stadium had all the hallmarks of a player who’s going to need time to adapt – not necessarily to Wolves’ way of playing, but more specifically to Adama Traore’s way of playing.
Before analysing Semedo’s lacklustre start to his Wolves career, it’s important to note that Doherty’s success at Wolves wasn’t necessarily built on being an outstanding individual, but more the fact that he fitted seamlessly into Nuno Espirito Santo’s preferred system.
The Spurs right-back hardly enjoyed a glittering career prior to Nuno’s arrival – looking like a solid Championship full-back at best – however, his ability to act as a foil for more talented players ahead of him saw him become an integral part of the Wolves starting XI.
Semedo’s display at West Ham didn’t look like that of a player who was ready to work for the good of the team.
With the Hammers obviously aware of the threat posed by Traore, David Moyes opted to mirror Wolves’ wing-back formation, meaning the home side could double up on the former Middlesbrough man with Arthur Masuaku and left-sided centre-back Aaron Cresswell handed the unenviable task of foiling the Spaniard’s plans.
Early on the tactic worked a treat with Traore afforded very little time or space and becoming visibly frustrated. However, putting two men on probably the fastest player in the Premier League is no tactical masterclass – many others clubs (in fact most other clubs) have tried exactly that. So why did it work so brilliantly for West Ham?
The answer is that Masuaku and Cresswell only ever had Traore to worry about. Semedo was evidently reluctant to drive forward and help out his teammate and Traore was ultimately shackled all evening.
The Portugal international needs to learn that the burden lies with the overlapping right wing-back to drag one of the two defenders with him, thus creating space for the electric wideman to weave his magic.
Nine times out of ten Semedo isn’t going to receive the ball – a harsh lesson to learn once he’s sprinted 50 yards – yet that’s the type of selfless running that needs to be done to free up a player who’s monitored as closely as Traore.
It’s perfectly understandable that Semedo will take time to adapt to this way of thinking. After all, why should a mega-money arrival from Barcelona be busting a gut to help out a guy who couldn’t make the grade at Aston Villa? But in Traore Wolves have a superstar – the Molineux faithful know that, the coaching staff know that, most of his teammates know that, and as soon as Semedo knows that the better.