Since he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2018, Raúl Jiménez has scored 47 goals across all competitions. The Wolves attack has been reliant on the Mexican forward since his arrival, but manager Nuno Espírito Santo will need to find a different source of goals for the duration of this season.
Jiménez fractured his skull against Arsenal on November 29th when he clashed heads with David Luiz, meaning he will likely miss the rest of the campaign. Without their main talisman, can Wolves find a way to still finish in the top six?
Inconsistent Alternative Options:
One of the biggest reasons why Wolves are currently 14th in the table is due to their lack of goals. The team has only scored 19 goals in 18 matches, which ranks 15th in the league. Without Jiménez, other forwards need to step up if those numbers are going to improve in the second half of the season.
Fábio Silva was brought in during the summer window for a club record fee of £35 million to add depth at the striker position. The 18-year-old has found it really difficult to replicate the same form he showed at Porto, as he has only one goal in 600 league minutes. It may take some time for Silva to get adjusted to the style of the Premier League, but the Portugese international certainly has the potential to become a quality forward for years to come.
The other natural striker Wolves have in their current squad is 23-year-old Patrick Cutrone. After signing with the club in the summer of 2019, the Italian international struggled to find his feet in the Premier League. Wolves allowed Cutrone to join Fiorentina on an 18-month loan following his tough start in England.
Cutrone was called back from his loan after Jimenez suffered a long-term injury to take pressure off of Fábio Silva. The former AC Milan academy product has only scored three goals in 26 appearances for Wolves, so he will need to step up if this team wants to earn qualification for the UEFA Europa League.
Relying on Wingers:
A lack of goal contributions from natural strikers has forced Nuno Espírito Santo to count on his wingers finding the back of the net. Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto typically play on the outside alongside a striker, but they have been forced to tuck in centrally over the last month. Jiménez is a strong forward with the ability to hold up play, so Wolves required a change in playstyle in order to utilize the skills of Podence and Neto.
Their last win in the league came against Chelsea on December 15th, and it set the blueprint for how this team can pick up points without their talisman. Podence avoided two oncoming defenders and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to give Wolves the equalizer.
In the dire moments of the game, Chelsea continued to commit numbers forward in search of all three points. Wolves managed to get on a counter attack in the 95th minute, setting Neto up with a one on one situation with central defender Kurt Zouma. The forward used a mixture of pace and power to create a good angle to shoot. Neto and his teammates began to celebrate as the net rippled following a driven shot into the bottom right corner.
Another player on the outside that needs to step up for Wolves in the coming months is Adama Traoré. He has never been known for his ability on the ball, but the goal contributions have dried up this season. The 24-year-old has no goals and one assist in over 1000 league minutes.
In comparison, Traoré had four goals and nine assists in 2604 league minutes last season. Most of his appearances have come on the right side throughout his time at Wolves, but his form has dropped off during this campaign. If the Spanish international can pick up his form, it can go a long way for this team moving forward.
Rest of the Squad:
While the team has struggled to score at times, there is certainly depth at other positions on the pitch. The midfield and defense are two areas where Wolves have found a good mixture of young talent alongside quality experience from older players in the squad.
Rúben Neves, João Moutinho, and Leander Dendoncker are three players that Nuno Espírito Santo have leaned on since the club earned promotion to the top division in 2018. American international Owen Otasowie has also emerged as a talented central midfielder during the winter period.
Wolves added a few natural defenders in the summer window, giving them plenty of options going into this season. Nélson Semedo, Ki-Jana Hoever, Rayan Aït-Nouri, and Fernando Marçal were all brought in to add depth in the defense. All four of those players have the ability to play as wingbacks as well, giving Nuno the ability to change the formation depending on their opponent. Also, center backs Conor Coady and Willy Boly along with goalkeeper Rui Patrício have been crucial to this team’s success throughout their time in the top division.
There is no denying that Raúl Jiménez has been one of best strikers in the Premier League since Wolves earned promotion. Without his services, the team has really struggled to pick up the necessary points in order to earn UEFA Europa League Qualification. A combination of Fábio Silva, Patrick Cutrone, Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto, and Adama Traoré will need to start scoring consistently if Wolves want to move up the table in the second half of the season.