Raul Jimenez has been missing from the Wolves since he fractured his skull in the win against Arsenal in November and had to undergo surgery, leaving him out for most of the season. They fought without him, but they are beginning to find a winning formula.
The side have picked up seven points from their last nine games and will be looking to build on that momentum against Leeds on Friday (kick-off at 20:00 GMT).
But what Jimenez gave the Wolves was a guaranteed goal. If you have a group of attackers who have been together for a while and have become accustomed to each other, you form a telepathic relationship.
Jimenez had everything and was the lynchpin of the Wolves, because everything went through him. He is very good in the air, can score incredible goals, keeps the ball in the air, races from behind and just has a complete game.
Their top scorer so far is Pedro Neto, with five goals. A striker like Jimenez, who scored two goals in the previous two seasons, boosts morale.
It gives the team a boost because they know they have someone to guarantee delivery. You know he can give you a purpose to get you out of a difficult situation. It’s very important for the team.
So it’s worrying to miss out on this player as everyone else feels the pressure to score goals.
|Appearance – 86||Jimenez’s share of Wolves’ total goals in the Premier League since 2018 is 38 percent.||Wolves win with Jimenez at 41.9|
|Objectives – 34||Opportunities created – 95||Points per game without Jimenez – 0.9|
|Help – 13||Wolves win % without Jimenez – 21.4||Play points with Jimenez – 1.5|
Of course, there were other factors that didn’t help the Wolves, who managed just three wins in 14 league games after losing Jimenez.
They need time on the training field, but it’s been difficult because of the number of games. Willian Jose’s first real chance to get to know his teammates was probably his first away game against Crystal Palace. He has to understand quickly – what other actors want, what they need and where do I need to be? It’s rather complicated.
Wolves also lost Diogo Jota, who was brilliant for them and you could see the impact he had when he first joined Liverpool. You miss him too.
At least Neto has already made his mark on this role, and he has an exciting future ahead of him. But you’re still missing the extra big player. They also lost Matt Doherty, so that important relationship is gone.
The team has been together for so long. Sometimes when you have a small breakup, it takes a long time to get everything back together.
Neto can fill the gap
The hardest thing in soccer is to score a goal. The Wolves have all the creative players, but they lacked that clinical goalie to finish their games. They fought to find this solution. Jimenez has been a key player for the Wolves for so long. How do you replace them?
So far I like what I’ve seen of José, but his career isn’t over yet. He couldn’t read where the ball was going from the fielders. He wasn’t exactly in the right places.
But he can hold the ball and bring players in. Jimenez is probably a little faster and seems to have a more natural understanding of the game, but with work and time, Jose could be a good player for the Wolves. I don’t think he’ll be Jimenez, but he shouldn’t be either.
Neto also has a trick up his sleeve. He can dribble with the ball, which is very difficult for defenders. You don’t know what to expect because it’s raw and unpredictable.
He’s agile, fast and strong, so he’s a nightmare. If you give him space, he can run towards you on either wing, and if you press him against you, he has the strength and ability to crush you. It can only get faster, stronger and better.
How Raul Jimenez is ranked in terms of goals scored, assists created, chances created, conversion rates and shot percentage for his Wolves since reaching the Premier League in 2018.
I thought it looked better for the Wolves when Neto went over on the right wing and cut his left leg in the second half of the 2-1 win over Southampton. He was more interested in being able to shoot. I want him to play in the middle because I think he can wreak havoc.
Coach Nuno Espirito Santo’s tactical change worked, as full-back Nelson Semedo preferred to stay wide and serve the flanks, as did Adama Traore. He brought Neto into the field and made way for Semedo. In fact, they are raising two players on the field, not one.
It looks more like a five-man offense than a three-man offense. Your fullbacks play higher, your wingers are more central and your frontcourt is connected. That’s the difference in the second half against Southampton.
Standing taller made the defender feel more like the old Wolves. They looked like crap when I saw them in that game. However, the change brought much needed energy and the second half went much better.
Their run in the Europa League last year probably wasted a lot of time. Overall, it was a transition period for them.
Nuno must have found this formula and recomposed it. They’re already starting to arrive.
Karen Carney spoke with athlete Emma Sanders.
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