GARRY MONK has warned Adama Traore that he will not be selected for Middlesbrough’s starting line-up unless he shelves some of his individual instincts for the good of the team.

Traore’s form has veered from the sublime to the ridiculous this season, with his match-winning display against Bolton Wanderers preceding a senseless dismissal in the opening five minutes of the following game at Aston Villa.

He was utterly ineffectual in the opening 45 minutes of the 2-2 draw with Brentford that preceded the international break, with Monk hauling him off half-time, and there have been times when the Boro boss has been exasperated with the winger’s reluctance to track back and carry out the defensive duties he has been instructed to enact.

On his day, Traore remains one of the most potent attacking assets in the Championship, and Monk readily admits the 21-year-old is one of the most naturally-talented players he has worked with. He is expected to name Traore in his starting line-up for this afternoon’s game at Barnsley, but has hinted the former Barcelona trainee is running out of chances given his patchy performance level this term.

“With Adama, he’s a great kid,” said Monk. “First and foremost, he’s a good lad. He’s a well-liked member of the squad, and we all know the ability he has, and the potential he has too. He works hard as well.

“But it’s about getting the balance right in terms of your game. The number one thing is always that you have to know what the team shape is and what is needed from you. The most important thing is that you have to abide by that.

“Of course, you then have to understand the players individually and know what they are capable of and what their qualities are. You have to allow that within the structure for them to be able to show their best.

“I think we’ve seen that. When he’s been at his best, and he’s got his role within the team right, that’s really contributed towards his performance. But when he hasn’t got that right, it’s contributed to his performance in the other way.

“It’s very clear. The team role and team ethic is number one. You have to carry out your role. If you don’t do that, you don’t play. When he’s got it right, he’s performed very well. That’s what we work on with all the players, and then with Adama individually and collectively. Then it’s up to him to get that right.”

Aitor Karanka regarded developing Traore as one of the biggest challenges of his Riverside reign, and Monk clearly had reservations about the winger’s willingness to buy in to his team ethic when he left him out of the side for Boro’s opening five Championship games.

He appears to have gradually warmed to him though, and clearly regards his pace, creative vision and dribbling ability as assets that could help increase his side’s attacking threat.

There is still plenty to do when it comes to moulding the other aspects of Traore’s game, but it is sometimes easy to overlook the winger’s youthfulness when assessing his overall worth. He has been a Boro player for almost a year-and-a-half now, but Traore does not turn 22 until the end of January and remains one of the youngest members of the Teessiders’ squad.

“You forget his age,” said Monk. “He’s been around a lot, but he’s still very young and there’s still a lot for him to learn and understand. We work individually with him every day, and also as part of the group collective.

“We’re constantly working him, trying to get him to that level of consistency and show him what he needs in his position and from his performances. At the same time, you have a lot of players competing and you have to be mindful that it’s not just about the one player. There are a lot of players competing for those positions, and it’s about getting those positions right.”

Traore is one of a number of players that have been in and out of the Boro team in the opening two months of the season, and that has led to criticism from some quarters that Monk ‘does not know his best team’.

The former Swansea and Leeds boss readily admits he doesn’t, but claims the days of having a cast-iron ‘best team’ are long gone.

“I think it’s impossible in football now to have a ‘best starting XI’,” he said. “I think it’s very difficult to look at things like that. I look at the squad as a whole. We’ve got a very competitive squad, and in the league we’re playing in, you know it’s never going to be down to just the 11 players.

“The key is making sure that everyone is ready. Everyone is ready, and knows exactly what is needed and expected in their role when they go onto the pitch. Then it’s about delivering that level of performance. More often than not, when you get that right, it doesn’t really matter who is playing.

“Yes, some people will talk about continuity and relationships, but the fact that we work at it every day and the players are used to working with the personnel we have in the squad, it shouldn’t really make a difference who is in the starting XI.”