The Mexican’s Molineux move, initially on loan, looked overpriced for someone who’d never made more than eight starts in a league season while playing in Europe.
But almost two seasons and 39 goals later, Nuno Espírito Santo’s faith in Jiménez has been more than vindicated. Outside of the top six – and, let’s face it, Wolves could still finish there – he’s the Premier League‘s most-wanted forward.
This season alone, Jiménez has 22 goals and 13 in the Premier League. That’s more than Harry Kane (11), Raheem Sterling (11) and Gabriel Jesus (10) prior to the suspension of the Premier League. The others have all come in the Europa League where Wolves have proven something of a surprise package.
There’s nothing surprising about Jiménez anymore, though.
He is the perfect modern-day striker, capable of doing so much more than putting the ball in the back of the net yet still unerringly brilliant at that too. Ten of his 13 Premier League strikes have been from open play and he has also chipped in with six assists.
Of the players to have scored more this season, only Liverpool talisman Mohammed Salah can match that, which gives an indicator of his quality as a creator. On top of that, the 13 ‘Big Chances’ Jiménez has created are the second-most in the top-flight by a forward.
As a goalscorer, Jiménez scores all types of goals. He has netted with 11 of the ‘Big Chances’ created for him and that, coupled with the fact he takes just 1.28 on-target shots per 90 paints the picture of an extremely clinical forward.
If there’s a criticism of his game then it’s that he’s had the most off-target shots in the Premier League (35) this season. But that’s a by-product of having had the most shots (99) also. If you don’t buy a ticket to the lottery you aren’t going to win and, judging by Jiménez’s open-play shot map (below), that’s evidently a belief he subscribes to.
A lot of his shots are from low-value areas; either outside the penalty or six-yard box. Despite this, his expected goals (xG)total for the season is 15.64, the highest among Premier League forwards, while his post-shot xG – which accounts for on-target shots and where they place in the goal – stands at 15.8 which is the third-best.
A slight underperformance, then, speaks for bad luck or good goalkeeping. We can get a better idea of which it is by looking at Jiménez’s shot-placement map (below) which details where every on-target shot he’s taken this season was aimed. The corners of the goal are the optimum place and while Jiménez makes a habit of hitting them.
But to talk solely about the 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist’s goalscoring ability would be to do him a disservice. The reason traditional top-four Premier League sides are so keen on Jiménez is his all-round play.
Despite his 6ft 3in frame, Jiménez is no slouch. Among Premier League forwards, the Mexican has embarked on the fourth-most fast breaks per 90 (0.51) this season. But his physical attributes are nevertheless impressive and he is a lot for centre-backs to handle. He can either occupy defenders allowing others to run beyond or bring team-mates into play with his impressive link-up play.
He’s surprisingly agile too – just witness his stunning chest control and volley to score against Watford in last season’s FA Cup semi-final. Having a powerful physique is one thing. Knowing how to use it to maximum effect is another altogether and Jiménez certainly does.
In the next sequence of images, Jiménez displays almost all his attacking qualities in a little over ten seconds. Having dropped deep to win a header in his own half, he spins off the back of a Liverpool player (below) and embarks on a driving run which gets Wolves on the front foot and the Premier League leaders backpedalling furiously.
Having beaten one Reds defender with a shimmy, Jiménez spots the run of Adama Traoré (circled) down the right-hand flank and lays a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of the Wolves sensation to run onto.
In one flowing move, Jiménez underlines his willingness to work for the team, pace, dribbling, football intelligence and finishing to get his side level.
Forwards are increasingly expected to make contributions to other aspects of play, often to the detriment of something else. Jiménez is a rare case of a striker who does that yet stills scores frequently.
He won’t come cheap but he is a commodity no Premier League side can afford to turn their nose up at.