The importance of Raúl Jiménez to this Wolverhampton Wanderers team has never been more apparent than this season.
Wolves drew 1-1 with Newcastle United on Saturday and lost 4-1 to champions elect Manchester City last night. These results leave the club in 12th place, just eleven points above the relegation zone.
The club has struggled this season, a far cry from how they have played the past two seasons which has seen two consecutive 7th place finishes and a run to the Europa League quarter-final. A key to this has been Mexican striker Jiménez.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RAÚL JIMÉNEZ
Jiménez, 29, was signed by Wolverhampton Wanderers from Benfica in 2018 initially on loan before making it permanent in a £30 million deal in the summer of 2019. He has scored 47 goals in 110 appearances in all competitions for the West Midlands side and has become a crucial part of this team.
He has been absent since he suffered a fractured skull in a 2-1 win away to Arsenal in November after a collision with Brazilian defender David Luiz. Wolves were in sixth place at the time, but since then we have seen the team struggle, furthermore showing the importance of Raúl Jiménez.
Jiménez is the club’s third top scorer despite not playing the clubs last 19 games in all competitions, with midfielder Rúben Neves joint with Pedro Neto in first place place and defender Romain Saïss in fourth.
Wolves sold Matt Doherty to Tottenham Hotspur and Diogo Jota to Liverpool during the summer. Whilst right-back Nelson Semedo has improved throughout the season, Jota’s departure has been noticed along with the absence of Jiménez.
STRUGGLES IN ATTACK AND RISE OF NETO
Except for Neto, the forwards have been struggling this season for Wolves. 18-year-old Fábio Silva was signed for £35 million with plenty of expectation but so far has just two goals to his name in a Wolves shirt. Adama Traore looks a shadow of the player we saw last season and Daniel Podence has been very hit and miss and has been out since early February.
Neto has been a real bright spark in this Wolves offense and will play a big role in getting Wolves as high in the table as possible. He has had his best season to date in the league since he joined from Portugese side Braga in 2019. He has already recorded more goals and assists this season than he did in the entirety of last season.
He has been the one player in the Wolves attack that has looked capable of troubling the opposition, as we saw with his exceptional solo goal against Southampton.
With just after an hour gone and the score level at 1-1, Neto was fed the ball at the right hand side of the box. Wolves’ number 7 got past Saints defender Jannik Vestergaard and hit the ball past Alex McCarthy at the tightest of angles. It was reminiscent of Mohamed Salah’s goal for Liverpool against Tottenham Hotspur during the 2017/18 season.
The top of the Premier League is unlikely to be changed but it is still tight in the rest of the table. Only five points separate Wolves in twelfth and Tottenham in the eighth, albeit with two games less played by Spurs. This is reachable and such a finish would represent a good season for Wolverhampton. If they are to do this, they will need Neto to continue his form and Jiménez back in the first team.