With one win and four losses so far this season, Wolverhampton Wolves currently sit one point above the relegation zone. There are a lot of issues that have plagued them this season from the lackluster defense to the change in manager, but the most glaring is their lack of a goalscoring threat.
Across five games this season, Wolves have only scored two goals with one being an own goal. While already disappointing at face value, this stat is further depressing when compared to the team’s expected goals value at this point. Expected goals is a good way to gauge how much a team should score based on the movement and passes, with the expected goals for Wolves being 7 goals at this point.
This disparity between the actual and expected goals can be hard to attribute to any one source as it seems to be a mix of a lot of different aspects. However, this lack of goal scoring isn’t new as it was an issue that plagued them last season.
Last season was a disappointing one for Wolves as they finished 13th after back to back 7th place finishes following their promotion to the Premier League. A big part of that disappointment came from their lack of scoring as the team only managed 36 goals, making them the fifth worst scoring team in the league. Contrast that performance to the club’s performance in the 2019-20 season where the club managed to score 51 goals, having the 9th best scoring offense in the league.
At this point, it would be impossible to ignore the main reason behind their high performing offense over the years preceding last season. Raúl Jiménez has scored a combined 48 goals over his four years at Wolves, proving to be amongst the best strikers in the league. His performance for the club has helped move them from a club striving to survive to one constantly challenging for the Europa League.
Wolverhampton fans are definitely asking themselves how last season and the early parts of this season would have gone had it not been for a terrifying injury to Jiménez. In November of last year, in a game against Arsenal, Jiménez had a head to head collision with David Luiz. The injury would later be diagnosed as a skull fracture, sidelining him for a year and limiting him for the rest of the career.
Without a real striker, Wolves relied on an 18 year striker and the midfield for goals which did not work as no player logged more than five goals. The club would ultimately finish in 13th place, well outside their expectations.
Coming into this season, Jiménez was given the green light to start playing the sport again, boosting the hopes of Wolves fans for the upcoming season. However, it would have been foolish and unfair to Jiménez for the club to have believed that off this injury, Jiménez would be the same player that he was before the season. It does seem like the club thought that his return would be enough for the club in terms of goal scoring.
After a rough few games with no goals scored, the club decided to loan in Red Bull Leipzig striker Hwang Hee-chan to help lighten the load on Jiménez. While he is a young player who still has gobs of potential, Hwang is better suited to act as a playmaking forward rather than a poacher that Wolves desperately needs. Of course, he could still be a great success as he could add yet another great playmaker to a side full of playmakers but having scored zero goals last season, the concerns about his finishing ability will always be there.
Outside of Hwang and Jiménez, there are very few premier league caliber options available for the team. Francisco Trincão, on loan from Barcelona, is more of a creative winger than an out and out striker and his time at Barcelona didn’t show him to be a goal scoring winger. While Fábio Silva is a very promising young striker, he hasn’t shown enough at the top level to warrant the role of a rotation striker in a team with lofty ambitions.
It’s not as if there was a lack of options available besides Hwang during the transfer window for Wolves to scoop up. Danny Ings stands out as an obvious choice as he has scored over 30 goals in the Prem over the past two seasons and would have been perfect to help lighten the load off both Hwang and Jiménez. Another great choice would have been Chris Wood, a proven double digit Premier League scorer who would have fit in both off the bench or alongside Jiménez.
Despite the early struggles, the season is still young and Wolves will definitely have the chance to bounce back but it will likely hinge on the performance of Hwang and Jiménez. No matter how unfair it is to pin the hopes of the club on Jiménez and his recovery from a truly devastating injury. Hwang will also have to show that he can score at a consistent level in a top league while still being a playmaker.
Unfortunately for the club and Jiménez, a freak accident derailed their grander plans for both last season and this one. However, their inability to come up with a contingency plan has sunk the club so far this season. There is, of course, time for them to turn the season around but they have unnecessarily put themselves at a disadvantage by not pursuing another Premier League proven forward option.
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