Jack Stroudley digs into the sudden upturn in form of Raul Jimenez.
On New Years Eve, Fulham finally got their big scalp over a big six opponent with a deserved 2-1 victory over Arsenal. There were lots of brilliant performances, but one man who seems to have come into his own since the November international break is Raul Jimenez. Sunday’s win felt like a culmination of his good performances since then, so what’s caused this sudden upturn in form?
Throughout the season I, alongside many others, have been critical of Jimenez’s performances but over the recent weeks he’s shown form similar to his time at Wolves with an average rating (Newcastle aside) of 7.58 from his last five games, according to SofaScore. Goals aside, he’s also become more involved in games becoming more of a nuisance for opposing defences with six fouls drawn and a duel percentage of 51% (up on the five games prior from 38%).
His goal contributions have also improved drastically and he seems to be much more confident, with four goals and one assist since that international break (he also scored a consolation at Villa Park just before). While there were problems across the pitch against both Burnley and Bournemouth, his presence in the final third was undoubtedly missed and I think he’s firmly made the striker position his to lose following rotation throughout the season between himself, Carlos Vinicius and Rodrigo Muniz.
What happens now?
So with this spike in form do we still need to look for a striker in January? I’d still say the answer is yes. There’s no guarantee this hot streak is going to last forever and our depth in that position is seriously lacking. We’ve already seen the rumour mill suggest at least one of Vinicius or Muniz will leave this month and with Vinicius not featuring in the squad on Sunday it would suggest he’s the more likely to move on.
The question is what type of striker do we sign? The January window is notoriously difficult to find long-term solutions in problem positions so with Jimenez beginning to perform it wouldn’t shock me if Fulham looked for somebody to compete with the Mexican on a more short-term basis. We’ve been linked in previous days to Wolves (ironic I know) forward Sasa Kalajdzic a signing I would be happy with if we decide to go down the short-term route.
This would allow us to free up some additional funds to look at other problem areas (Andre in midfield, another winger or maybe some added depth in defence due to Tosin’s uncertainty and Ballo-Toure heading to AFCON shortly) and then look for our long-term Mitrovic replacement in the summer when clubs are more willing to sell their best assets.