Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Bruno Lage felt that Raul Jimenez produced his ‘best’ performance since returning from a fractured skull against Newcastle United.
The Mexican played the role as provider for striker partner Hee-Chan Hwang in the 2-1 win against Steve Bruce’s side.
Wolves’ number nine set up both of the South Korean’s goals after coming deep and picking up possession in between the Magpies’ midfield and defence.
It’s an area of the former Benfica man’s game that he and Lage have been working hard on.
Lage has outlined how he has changed the striker’s game.
Speaking about Jimenez (via the Express & Star), Lage said: “Raul is a hard worker. In the first day when I saw him, he ran all over the pitch.
“He went from one flank to another and I said ‘look, you cannot play like that, we are going to play in a different way and you are going to play more in-between the lines’.”
Work on training ground pays off
It’s clear Lage wants his star striker to be pressing from the front but he wants him to be the focal point of his team’s attacks, through the middle, not drifting out to wide areas.
Against Newcastle, Bruce’s defenders didn’t know whether to follow Jimenez if he dropped deep or pass him onto their midfielders to mark.
He found the pockets of spaces well and then showed his passing ability to play two perfectly-weighted passes into Hwang’s stride.
Strikers are usually judged on the number of goals they score, but Lage felt Jimenez’s display against Newcastle was his ‘best’ since returning from injury.
The former Benfica manager added: “It was his best game and he didn’t score goals, but it was the best.
“He came to play between the lines and the job he did in the second goal, for me, was amazing.
“It was on the same level as the goal he scored against Southampton.”
With the work on the training ground reaping the rewards on the pitch, it’s encouraging to see the influence Lage is having on Jimenez’s game and the different dimensions he has already added.
Lage has only been at Molineux for a short period, but if he can continue to add different weapons and attributes to the players’ games, then his tenure could prove to be a really successful one.