Raul Jimenez had a bumpy start to his European career. It started with him receiving just 4 league starts in his first season with Atletico Madrid and scoring 1 goal. His estimated $12m transfer seemed like a bust for the Spanish giants. He was sent to Benfica and experienced some success but was never fully trusted to lead the line for the Portuguese giants. Jimenez never started more for than 8 league games or saw more than 1,000 league minutes in any of his 3 seasons in Portugal. Although he did reach double digit goal totals in 2 out of the 3 seasons, he wanted more responsibility than being a super sub. A Mexican striker in Europe in wanting to be more than a super sub, sound familiar?
He arrived at Wolves last Summer as the leading candidate to be their number 9. The ambitious club had just been promoted but had aspirations of a Europa League position in the standings. Jimenez scored in his Premier League debut and never relinquished his starting spot. The Club America product would go on to have his best season abroad. Wolves trusted him with 36 league starts and 3,124 minutes, nearly the same amount he was given in his 4 years with Benfica/Atletico. They were rewarded with 13 goals and 7 assists in the league as they finished a surprising 7th place and earned a spot in the Europa League qualifying round. WhoScored gave Jimenez a 7.07 rating (46th overall) for his play in the Premier League. It was an improvement over the 6.59 rating he received in his last season at Benfica. Raul also chipped in with 4 FA Cup goals as the team made a run to the semis with Jimenez scoring in the semi and in the quarterfinal upset of Manchester United. What has he done for an encore?
Well… so far so good. Even though Raul has drawn additional defensive attention and Wolves are no longer sneaking up on people, he has managed to have an even better season. In addition to his individual exploits, Wolves are within distance of a Champions League spot. The club sits at 6th place with 24 points, tied with Manchester United. Only Liverpool have less league losses than Wolves. In Europa League, they are through to the knockout rounds with a game to spare in the Group Stage. In their 11 Europa League games (including qualifying), Raul has 9 goals and 3 assists. He has played nearly every game for Wolves since he signed with the club, very rarely coming off the bench.
Through 16 Premier League games, Jimenez has 6 goals and 4 assists. He is on pace to surpass last year’s totals but his growth this season has come in other areas of his game. He appears more comfortable on the ball this season, very willing to take on defenders rather than lay it off quick to a teammate. Raul has more than doubled his dribbles per game to 2.2 from his average of .9 last season. He leads all Premier League forwards in successful dribbles and is 2nd per 90 minutes. This allows him to push the attacking line even further up to create more scoring chances for Wolves. His average of 1.8 key passes per game leads all forwards this season, is up from 1.1 last season. The more dangerous Jimenez can be, the better Wolves are as a whole. They rely on him for a lot for their offensive output with their number 9 being involved in 10 out of their 23 league goals. On the defensive side of the pitch, Raul is making his presence felt. His manager, Nuno Espirito Santo, is constantly praising his work rate. The Mexican International ranks among the top 5 forwards in clearances, tackles and interceptions. He is taking another step in his career this season and is showing everyone he has the skill set to be a modern day number 9.