Diogo Jota does not have great pace, skill or strength, and his stats pale in comparison to first-choice target Timo Werner’s… but here’s why shock £41m Liverpool signing could be Jurgen Klopp’s own version of Thomas Muller
- Diogo Jota has completed a surprise £41m transfer from Wolves to Liverpool
- The Reds were questioned for the quality coming off their bench last season
- Jota’s statistics cannot compare with those of new Chelsea striker Timo Werner
- But he is often decisive in a similar vein but on a smaller scale to Thomas Muller
- The Portuguese will provide competition to January signing Takumi Minamino
‘We want to make ourselves look good in the best league in the world,’ Jota said in 2018 about his and Ruben Neves’ ambition following Wolves’ promotion back to the Premier League.
Now two years on he is set to provide back-up to one of world football’s deadliest attacking forward lines after completing a surprise £41million move to Liverpool on a five-year contract.
Liverpool faced few criticisms last season after winning their first Premier League title, but doubts simmered below the surface of the quality of player coming off the bench.
Diogo Jota has become Liverpool’s latest signing in a £41million move from Wolves
Jota is set to provide back-up for front three Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane
But with Jota – who in 48 appearances last season scored 16 goals and is now set to trigger Divock Origi’s departure from Anfield – they have a star ideally suited to back-up Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane given the progress he has made over the last 24 months, and at 23 years old there is still room for improvement in his game.
The Reds have clearly identified Jota as someone who can add versatility to their forward line and cover any of the aforementioned trio in case of injury or suspension, having operated as an attacking midfielder, a second-striker, a centre-forward and his preferred role of left winger in the past.
Regardless of which position he is assigned, Jota seems to make a meaningful impact on proceedings, with a good first touch and anticipation helping him deliver some useful end product.
According to Total Football Analysis, 10 of Jota’s 16 goals last season were first-touch finishes, with six coming from the six-yard box.
Jota scored 16 goals last season but netted just once after lockdown in a game against Everton
Such feats underline his game-reading ability and goalscoring nous, which again were highlighted by his only goal post-lockdown, a thunderous finish past Jordan Pickford following excellent chest control in Wolves’ 3-0 win against Everton.
However, a return of seven Premier League goals and one league assist last season may therefore appear slightly underwhelming, and a comparison with Timo Werner – a player Liverpool were interested in before he joined Chelsea – adds to that feeling.
The German striker scored 34 goals and recorded 13 assists for RB Leipzig across the Bundesliga, Champions League and the DFB Pokal in 2019/20 before his £53m move to Stamford Bridge, a deal which appears to offer more reward for the high fee shelled out.
Werner revealed that Blues boss Frank Lampard told him he would ‘be free to make the right moves on the pitch’ ahead of his move and while the Germany forward appears to thrive on the unknown, Jota has yet to produce anything close to his return despite similarly appearing to enjoy a similarly free role at Wolves.
However, unlike Werner, Jota doesn’t appear to possess a set of clear outstanding attributes which would make fitting him into one specific role easier.
And his end product compared to new Chelsea striker Timo Werner is far inferior
Werner – a former Liverpool target – scored 34 goals for RB Leipzig before his £53 move
He isn’t renowned for his speed like Werner or now former team-mate Adama Traore, he doesn’t have an array of skill, and he isn’t the biggest physical presence.
He is clearly able to get the better of defenders with his burst of pace on runs, such as he did at Tottenham last season for Raul Jimenez’s winner after Jota himself had equalised, but there are few qualities on the field that have come to define him.
But on several occasions he finds a way, by hook or by crook, of producing moments which do seem to depend on abilities that are hard to coach and are often instinctive in players.
No doubt, his on-field relationship with Jimenez – which often saw space created for Jota as a result of the Mexican’s runs and passing ability – has helped the duo inspire Nuno Espirito Santo’s side to victory like they did at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in March.
But instead of being able to perform specific functions in games, he appears to have a knack of finding a way to be useful or decisive, in a similar vein but on a smaller scale to the role Thomas Muller plays for Bayern Munich.
Jota however has made telling contributions with his attributes, notably at Tottenham in March
His on-field relationship with Raul Jimenez has also helped Wolves flourish in recent years
But unlike the former Germany international, Portugal forward Jota is far from the finished product, and without a particular set of strengths to work with, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may have to rely on managerial invention and assess particular situations to see how Jota can best help unlock opposition defences.
But there is evidence he can do just that, with notable performances coming against dishevelled defence in the form of Spurs in March and the season before at home to Unai Emery’s Arsenal and Claude Puel’s Leicester, a game in which he notched his first Wolves hat-trick.
A second and third hat-trick soon followed in last year’s Europa League against Besiktas and Espanyol respectively, and the league and Europe could see further improvement in front of goal if he is tasked effectively with exploring a team’s weaknesses.
Arsenal and Leicester – much like Besiktas and Espanyol – were poor in transition and with Liverpool renowned for their speed during this phase of matches Jota could wreak further havoc on defences that continue to show a lack of organisation.
Diogo Jota scored two hat-tricks against Besiktas and Espanyol in last season’s Europa League
Jota finds a way to be decisive, in a similar vein but on a smaller scale to Thomas Muller
Not only could he allow himself more space to do damage, but sometimes tucking in to allow the full-backs forward at Wolves, Jota’s arrival could signal even more forays forward from Andy Robertson to widen the play for the Anfield side.
His late, often unmarked runs into the box mean he could also be a target for crosses from the full-backs and other wide players, which given Liverpool’s fluidity in changing positions in their 4-3-3 formation appears to represent a natural fit for Jota if and when he is called upon.
The same cannot as yet be said for Liverpool’s January signing Takumi Minamino following his arrival from Red Bull Salzburg.
The Japanese has shown some excellent signs for the Reds in pre-season, scoring in the Community Shield against Arsenal after coming off the bench and another in the 7-2 thrashing of Blackpool.
Takumi Minamino will face competition from Jota after a tricky start to life at Anfield
The 25-year-old Japan international appeared to have been struggling with not having a defined position last season, but following tactical tweaks from Klopp and a new formation against Blackpool of Minamino as an advanced midfielder supporting the front three and ahead of a midfield two, he could eventually slot in and come good for the Reds.
Few have doubted Minamino’s application in training but in Jota, Klopp has signed a player who has made a consistently decisive impact on Premier League and European matches, and despite Minamino’s promise there is as yet no evidence of competitive efficiency from him.
Without a fixed position, Minamino often let games drift by in the second half of the 2019/20 campaign, following starts against Everton and Chelsea, as well as a lengthy outing as an early replacement for Sadio Mane at Molineux.
He has shown excellent signs in pre season scoring against Arsenal but is now up against it
But with or without an assigned position, Jota has been able to contribute to his side’s efficiency in front of goal, but his end product remains far inferior to that of Werner.
‘In addition to having a very fluid style of play, they are very strong and have had a bit of luck as well, which it takes to be a champion. [They are the strongest team in the league].’
Jota’s words to Sportsmail in April at the height of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic showed the admiration the Portuguese has harboured for the Reds. Now he will get the chance to see what impact he can make in that team itself.
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article