The Raúl Deal

Image: Fulham FC

I have a tendency to defend potential signings too early. I think it’s because the majority of analysts are reviewing statistics, heatmaps, xG or something else that ends up following the same narrative. I tend to go against that grain by watching full match replays to see if the player passes the eye-test. This week I’ve watched a lot of our new signing, Raúl Jiménez. He is a player that I am quite excited about – even after watching last season’s matches where he scored no goals in the Premier League, and only 3 in the Carabao Cup.

Jiménez’s head injury is well documented, quite well in the Wolves production piece actually. He’s also clearly loved, which I could feel after watching the Wolves farewell video that was featured when he signed with us. If I had watched those two videos before any matches, I’d have hoped for him to do well and rekindle whatever type of sharpness possible. However, even before that, I already felt he could not only bolster the striker competition, but also become our main striker should Aleksandar Mitrović move on.

Many have suggested that Jiménez is not the same player he once was, and that is accurate to a degree. However, what makes a player isn’t just their end product, and when reviewing matches I am looking for the attributes that could actually fit within Marco Silva’s system and the sequences within a match.

What are we asking for from our strikers? A good first touch, ability to hold onto the ball, solid distribution, dropping back to support the midfield, making intelligent runs, and ultimately, score goals. Take all but the goals and the attributes that Jiménez displays make him an expert to me. Scoring is obviously important, and that’s notably where Jiménez struggled last season, but there are far more positives than negatives.

What Jiménez brings is someone who is dependable when holding onto the ball, and makes a smart passes. This was evident in his Fulham debut against Chelsea in the Premier League Summer Series. One of his first touches was a quick lay off back to Willian, who then had room to run or play a pass into. Shortly after, he received a low driven pass to his feet, with his back to goal and a defender tightly marking him. Jiménez managed to control the ball, hold off the his marker and send the ball out wide to Harry Wilson.

His runs off the ball were miles ahead of what we have seen from Vinicius and even Mitrović. It’s reminiscent his countryman and former Manchester United front man, Javier Hernandez, where it’s not just the first run, but the second and third movements that create space for chances. It’s not just about competing with the defender, but how he is able to manoeuvre his way to the back or front post free of a defenders attention – or drop back centrally in the box for a cut-back. He did this several times against Chelsea, and with better service, he might have gotten on the end of them.

He’s also an unselfish player. He looks for teammates early, and aims to create chances. He had two potential assists in the Chelsea match alone. First when he turned a defender in midfield, carried the ball and attempted to play a pass through for Wilson that was cut out. Later, his leaping ability allowed him head a flick on into Bobby Decordova-Reid’s path who’s shot was well saved. His workrate off the ball is notable as well, he chases down 50/50 balls and puts pressure on the backline. He was still chasing down Chelsea players in the 89th minute, still full of energy.

I predict that Jiménez is going to be one of our best signings this season. He seems to be a different striker to Mitrović and Vinicius, but he’s a striker that can do it all. I cannot wait to see what he brings to our team dynamic and how he might play with the confidence of scoring a couple of goals. I can see why Marco Silva has signed him, and the type of competition he will bring to the frontline. If he finds his scoring form – we’re in for a treat.