Every season, the Premier League rollercoaster offers twists and turns for its viewers. We’ve seen dramatic title slip-ups, title-sealing goals, controversial decisions and newly promoted underdogs upsetting the big boys. For the latter, we have been spoiled for choice in recent memory, with Watford, Bournemouth and Leicester all outperforming expectations to become part of the furniture at English football’s elite level.
The 2018/19 season has been no different, and even neutrals can appreciate the breath of fresh air that Wolves have provided. The Wanderers currently sit in 7th place, the ‘best of the rest,’ whilst the Premier League’s top six continue to drift from the rest of the pack.
Despite heavy investment over the past two seasons, seemingly inspired in part by Football Manager’s wonderkid list, Wolves fans would have gnawed your hand off if they were offered a Europa League spot on when the season kicked off on August 11th.
Granted, Wolves galavanted back into the Premier League after a comfortable 17/18 season, but just ask Burnley, Leicester and Bournemouth how easy it is to transition from winning the Championship to playing in the Premier League.
Wolves have certainly had the answer to most questions asked of them so far. There were solid draws against Manchester City and United, an excellent performance in their 2-1 win over Chelsea and a battling comeback against Spurs in December. They have pushed most teams they have played to the limit and could be knocking on Arsenal’s door in 6th place if luck had fallen their way in key moments.
The team’s Portuguese contingent have rightly grabbed the headlines, with manager Nuno Espírito Santo and wonderkids Ruben Neves and Diego Jota taking most of the plaudits. However, one player who is quietly having an effective first season in English football is Raúl Jiménez, the towering striker who has scored eleven times in all competitions.
Raúl Jiménez was born in the Hidalgo state of Mexico and started his career at Club América, one of Mexico’s two most successful teams. He would appear in two finals for The Eagles, winning one, and scored 35 goals over three full seasons. An €11m move to the then Spanish league champions Atlético Madrid followed in the summer of 2014, but he would score just once and was supplanted by Mario Mandžukić and rising superstar Antoine Griezmann.
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A botched move to West Ham, supposedly caused by oversleeping, came in August 2015 and Jiménez would end up signing for Portuguese powerhouse Benfica. After two fruitful seasons, including two league titles, ‘super agent’ Jorge Mendes played a role in moving Jiménez, his client, to Wolves in 2017.
Jiménez has already played in four different countries, highlighting his adaptability, but not every South American striker hits the ground running in the Premier League. For every Javier Hernandez, fans have endured a Radamel Falcao. Twice.
However, any doubts over Jiménez’s ability have been quashed as the season has progressed. He opened his Wolves account with a strong header to equalise the game on his debut against Everton. A month later, he hit the back of the net again against Burnley in a 1-0 win. The winter period has been his most successful, with eight goals in all competitions since December.
Wolves fans took to Jiménez quickly and he was given his own teeth-grindingly, cliché chant by December. Effective anywhere inside the 18-yard box, with a powerful header, the Mexican will be hoping to keep up his impressive recent form and will expect to hit double figures for league goals soon.
The sky is seemingly the limit for Wolves. They have a chairman in Jeff Shi who seems willing to flash the cash needed for the club to cement their place in the top division. In Nuno Santo, they have a manager who has experience in the European competitions and an exciting playing style. If they can keep their young core happy, hungry and feeding their hitman Jiménez, we can expect to see Wolves playing at this level for a long time.
Feature Image via Caliente.MX Noticias
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