In comparison to last term, Liverpool’s form has been sticky so far this season as their latest setback saw them draw 1-1 with Brighton in the Premier League.
However, one constant source of positivity for the Reds has been Diogo Jota’s form – the Portuguese firing in the opening goal of the game with a sublime run across the edge of the area before shooting.
Jota, who moved to Anfield from Wolves in a £45million deal, now has five Premier League goals for his new club and his strike at the Amex Stadium saw him equal Robbie Fowler in taking the fewest appearances (8) to reach that total.
Following Jota’s goal, former Red Ray Houghton sung the 23-year-old’s praises, saying he’s ‘eclipsed’ the likes of Takumi Minamino in the Liverpool ranks, despite only being at the club since September.
Meanwhile, Peter Crouch said after the match that Jota is already looking like a seasoned Liverpool player, having scored nine goals in 14 appearances in all competitions.
“Well, it’s incredible, I think sometimes you can be overawed by the size of the club, he’s come from Wolves and it can take a little bit of time to settle in, but he’s hit the ground running,” ex-Red Crouch told BT Sport.
“The biggest compliment I can pay him is it’s like he’s been there for five or six years, he’s slotted in right to what Jurgen Klopp wants.”
Jota was making waves before last weekend though – his brilliant hat-trick against Atalanta in the Champions League – a match Liverpool won 5-0 – prompted talkSPORT’s Stuart Pearce to make a big claim on our airwaves.
“He’s becoming, I wouldn’t say the find of the season, but certainly the signing of the season at these early stages,” Pearce said.
“He is an intelligent footballer, and playing with the level of footballer he is playing with at Liverpool is only going to take him onto that next level.”
Later in November, Jota headed home against Leicester as Liverpool swept aside the Foxes at Anfield, making him the first player to score in his first four top-flight home matches for Liverpool.
It’s fair to say the extent of Jota’s impact has pleasantly surprised Liverpool fans, but former Premier League forwards Troy Deeney and David Connolly saw this coming long before he completed his Merseyside move.
“At Wolves, he was frightening… whenever we played against them, Jota was the one you always worried about,” the Watford star told talkSPORT.
“He’s what, 23? So, he’s only going to get better. He’s gone up a level and I think he’s someone who will continue to grow.
“I think playing with those players week-in week-out and getting used to winning, because I do believe Liverpool will go on to win for years to come, he will only get better and his mentality will only get better too.”
Connolly spotted Jota’s talents even earlier, however, claiming to have been wowed by the player when he was playing for Wolves in the Championship.
The talkSPORT pundit was asked to scout Wolves for friend and Bristol City manager Lee Johnson and was dazzled by Jota’s exploits in a clash at Brentford in August 2017. Jota was 20 at the time.
“It was a 0-0 game and I gave him [Johnson] the report,” Connolly told talkSPORT.
“He didn’t always call me but he did this time, he called me and said: ‘Dave, they sound like Real Madrid here. They drew 0-0 here, lost to Cardiff!’
“I told him: ‘Lee, there are players here that are so talented’. I haven’t seen them before, it was my first time really.
“They ended up winning the league with 99 points, and Diogo Jota that day was incredible.
“You had to keep the ball away from their left side, so Lee changed shape, I think we were winning 3-2 against Wolves when we played them but ended up drawing 3-3.
“That was the first time I saw Jota and even then he was a class apart.
“So three years later, is it a surprise he’s at Liverpool? No. He’s a top, top player and he was showing it even then in the Championship, he was incredible.”
Not only has Jota signed for a top club and broken records but he’s managed to do something that would have seemed impossible at points – break into Liverpool’s front three.
The dynamic trio, who have served Klopp so well for the last three seasons, was given a shake-up when Jota started ahead of fan favourite Roberto Firmino against Atalanta. As mentioned, he repaid the faith shown in him by netting a treble.
Unsurprisingly, many called for Jota to be a permanent fixture on the front line, with Jamie Carragher telling talkSPORT in November Jota should be picked at Firmino’s expense.
But when we look at why Jota has been so effective for Liverpool perhaps dropping Firmino isn’t necessarily the answer.
Jota’s standout performance was the win at Atalanta and although he replaced Firmino, he wasn’t carrying out the same duties as the Brazilian.
He played more as a centre-forward rather than a false nine due to the Italian side’s naïve all-out attacking approach, meaning Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane had enough space without Jota having to drop slightly deeper, something Firmino regularly does.
Premier League sides are more wise to Liverpool’s threats so naturally sit back more, but few have been able to contain Jota anyway.
The former Atletico Madrid man tends to find himself on either the left or right-wing, with WhoScored analysis revealing that in Jota’s last five club appearances, Liverpool have built their attacks on the wings, the left more so than the right. But when it comes to their shot directions, Liverpool are quite clearly taking the shots from central areas.
Firmino’s unselfishness allows Jota, Mane and Salah to get into dangerous areas. Inside the first minute of the Brighton clash, Firmino dropped deep and his through ball set Jota away on the left. The attack paled into insignificance as Jota, who naturally moved more centrally, was unable to find the onrushing Salah with a cross but it perfectly illustrated how Firmino’s presence has allowed Jota to shine.
In contrast, Wolves tended to use either a 3-4-3, 3-5-2 or 5-4-1 formation in the Premier League last season with more of an onus on Raul Jimenez being the chief goalscorer, meaning aspects of Jota’s game were not fully appreciated.
But it seems Jota showed enough to Klopp that he fitted the Liverpool mould, the German recently revealing that he had made his mind up about trying to sign the star the first time he saw him play for Wolves.
“Diogo, I liked, honestly, from the first game I saw him playing for Wolves. That’s how it is,” Klopp told UEFA.com.
“He had no idea about that, obviously, but for me it was always clear that when he was kind of in reach, I would go for him because he’s very, very interesting and had an exciting career so far: what he did, where he’s come from, the moves he made, bam bam bam.
“I liked the discipline he showed, plus the creativity he showed, plus the desire he showed. And his skills are pretty good anyway, so I got a lot of good signs before we signed him that it could work out.”
Published at Tue, 01 Dec 2020 11:45:03 +0000