90min

How Wolves Can Cope With Absence of Talisman Raul Jimenez

Ross Jackson
Raul Jimenez looks set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines
Raul Jimenez looks set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines / Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images
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It's got to be every manager's worst nightmare.

You build your team around a stellar centre-forward, spend a summer shunning advances from various big clubs, eventually tie him down to a long-term deal and then he suffers a horrific injury which looks to have almost certainly ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.

Naturally, Nuno Espirito Santo has been quick to stress in the aftermath of Raul Jimenez's awful head clash with David Luiz that his thoughts are purely on the wellbeing of the Mexican forward. However, with Premier League fixtures coming thick and fast over the Christmas period, just how will they cope in his absence?

Raul Jimenez suffered an awful injury at Arsenal
Raul Jimenez suffered an awful injury at Arsenal / Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

Of course, with the transfer deadline long since passed, Nuno will be required to work with the current squad of players at his disposal as he looks to absorb the loss of his talisman, but that shouldn't necessarily be looked at as a negative.

The first shoots of positivity in the 29-year-old's absence came in the very same game he suffered the shuddering collision.

The injury to Jimenez saw Nuno turn to big-money summer signing Fabio Silva. The 18-year-old was tasked with leading the Wolves line for the majority of the game (given his introduction took place just 15 minutes in) and he did a fine job of receiving the ball to feet and showed the awareness and the ability to linkup play with his teammates.

It may have only been 63 minutes of football - he was subbed late on as the visitors looked to close out the game - and Silva has a long way to go if he's to prove he's a Premier League footballer, but he displayed all the nous and intelligence to suggest he can be the focal point of Wolves' attack if needed.

The one thing the former Porto man did lack was the striker's instinct that has seen Jimenez become one of the most sought-after strikers in European football. Silva was inches away from getting his head on a delivery whipped across the Arsenal goal - had Jimenez been the target of said cross you could put your mortgage on him finding the back of the net.

That being said, it would be unjust to criticise the £35m man for not being half a foot taller - which essentially could have been the difference between him scoring and him missing out - though his lack of physical presence may ultimately offer another string to Wolves' bow.

Let's not forget, Nuno's side looked far from blunt after Jimenez had left the field against Arsenal. In fact, they would go on to score twice and secure a brilliant win at the Emirates Stadium.

Instead of having Jimenez as the focal point of the attack, Wolves looked to concentrate their efforts on having three mobile, pacey forwards on the pitch, and with the likes of Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto either side of Silva, Arsenal couldn't cope with the visitors' three-pronged attack.

Fabio Silva did well when coming on against Arsenal
Fabio Silva did well when coming on against Arsenal / James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Their second goal at the Emirates provided a glimpse of what we might be able to expect from Nuno's side going forward.

Having picked up the ball near the centre circle, Neto drove at the Arsenal backline. Clearly terrified by his pace, the Gunners defence continued to back off, before the Portuguese youngster unleashed a fierce shot which was spilt by Bernd Leno. Not content with hugging the touchline, Podence emerged from the left, evaded every Arsenal defender before producing a moment of magic to hand his side the lead.

The fluid, fast-paced, interchanging movement of the Wolves front three was simply too much for Mikel Arteta's men to handle, and if anything, the lack of a main man up front proved to be what won Wolves the game.

The other option Nuno has at his disposal is the jet-heeled Adama Traore.

Adama Traore can be a threat when utilised correctly
Adama Traore can be a threat when utilised correctly / Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images

The Portuguese tactician has already attempted to experiment with Traore in various different positions (with little to no success), and so the temptation to start him as the spearhead of Wolves' attack should definitely be avoided, as he's proven to find it difficult to adapt to a new role for a full 90 minutes.

However, the rapid Spaniard proved in Wolves' memorable win over Manchester City last season, that when pushed further forward late on - with the opposition beginning to tire - he can be a huge asset when he plays off the shoulder of the last man and looks to utilise his pace in behind.

Losing a centre-forward of Jimenez's ability would be difficult for most teams in the world to recover from, so of course it will have an impact on Wolves. However, Silva's performance at Arsenal and the other forward players Nuno has at his disposal should be more than enough to cope with the Mexican's absence; even if it does mean a slight change in style.

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