Wolves fans have been stung by the news that Raul Jimenez will miss the start of the season.
The 31-year-old has suffered MCL damage and also injured his adductor.
He will be missing for a number of weeks according to the club. But John Percy of The Telegraph has reported he’ll be out for at least a month and potentially up to eight weeks.
It’s a nightmare scenario for Wolves, who have just loaned out Fabio Silva to Anderlecht.
As things currently stand, Bruno Lage has no natural centre-forwards available to him.
Naturally, there has been a lot of clamour online since the news dropped for Wolves to go out and sign a striker.
That will likely happen, but journalist Liam Keen has reported the club won’t be rushed as they seek someone who fits the team’s style.
Wolves must now get used to playing without Jimenez for a little while, and here are a few ways Lage could cover his number nine’s absence…
Daniel Podence false nine
Podence has mainly been operating as a number 10 in pre-season.
He appears to be comfortable working in those central areas, so perhaps he has the capacity to play slightly further forwards as a false nine.
He certainly has the footballing intelligence.
Having Podence playing in this role would require people to get into the space he vacates. The two wide players, and one of the midfielders would be absolutely crucial.
Hwang-Hee Chan lone striker to spring the offside trap
Hwang is no stranger to playing through the middle.
The South Korea international has mainly operated on the left during his time at Molineux so far.
During his first few months at the club Hwang showed he has the potential to be very clinical.
He’s also very quick and so, Lage may like the ideal of him leading the line and latching onto through balls by spring the offside trap.
Morgan Gibbs-White false nine
We saw Gibbs-White play in this role during the fiery friendly with Levante.
He doesn’t have a great deal of experience, but it’s something Lage may consider if he wants to keep Podence out wide.
Having Gibbs-White central might appeal as he clearly demonstrated an eye for goal last season whilst on loan at Sheffield United.
Adama Traore lone striker to spring the offside trap
To the surprise of some, the exit-linked Traore remains a Wolves player.
He has been nursing a hamstring injury lately, but the issue is not thought to be serious.
Potentially he could be available for selection for the game against Leeds United.
We’ve seen Traore play through the middle before.
He is far from clinical, but he’s undoubtedly an option for the position if he sticks around. He’s, at the very least, a pure menace for defenders.
Hwang and one other in a partnership
It looks as though Wolves are going to play with four at the back for some games in 2022/23.
Lage has rolled out the system a few times in pre-season so far, and obviously he used it at Benfica.
Specifically at Benfica, he used the 4-4-2 formation and perhaps he’ll want to do that now, with Jimenez sidelined.
Hwang has experience of playing in a partnership having featured in RB Salzburg’s attack with Erling Haaland.
Lage may fancy him and someone like Podence or Gibbs-White to link up as a pairing.
It could work better to have two forwards as they can support each other, rather than having someone leading the line on their own which would be a tough task for a non-striker.
A new striker
There’s potential for Wolves to frustrate fans by waiting a couple of weeks before signing a new centre-forward.
But someone could become available in the coming days who Wolves might fancy.
Hopefully that will be the case, even though Lage may have faith in his makeshift options.
The club have been linked with a lot of names in recent weeks, the latest being Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace.
The Belgium international has not had the best time at Selhurst Park, but perhaps he might relish being the go-to man at Molineux, at least for a little while.
He’s got a year left on his contract, which might encourage Wolves to seek a cut-price deal.