Diogo Jota can provide the only thing Liverpool attack was missing
Liverpool have worked wonders in the transfer market in recent years, to be in a position where they are able to line up with not one or two but three elite level forwards on a weekly basis.
If there is one tiny downside to such riches, it is this: how can you hope to improve upon them with your next signing?
There’s also the challenge of providing adequate cover for the rare occasions when they are absent through injury, or in need of a respite from Jurgen Klopp’s relentlessly demanding football.
Divock Origi has been on the club’s books for longer than any of his illustrious colleagues, and has stepped up to provide crucial goals at critical moments over the years.
And while his contributions have assured his place in club folklore for ever more, he isn’t exactly a deputy for Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah. He’s a different style of player.
Michael Edwards appears to have addressed this issue with the acquisition of Diogo Jota from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The 23-year-old’s skillset is far more in line with those of his new colleagues in the Liverpool front line – particularly Mane’s – and his statistics suggest he can offer a new dimension to the Reds’ attack too.
Liverpool are not a side who dribbles past opposing players that often when considering how much time they spend attacking. Jota certainly can, though, as his record from 2019/20 will confirm.
The Portugal international took the ball past a total of 85 players in the Premier League last season which was the sixth most in the top flight, and put him 19th on the chart for Europe’s big five leagues.
His take-ons often led to chances too. While Jota couldn’t match Salah’s total of 23 shots taken following a dribble, his total of 16 put him ahead of every other man in the Liverpool squad, and gave him a share of 15th place across the continent’s main leagues.
And not even Salah could match Jota’s prowess for winning free-kicks. He was fouled 60 times in the league in 2019/20, the ninth most in the division.
Liverpool fans might assume his number will now drop, in light of the seemingly unfair treatment their forwards often receive from referees, but Jota’s stats illustrate how opposition defences struggle to deal with him. He either goes past them, or they take him down – and that’s a quality that could be vital to the Reds.
With the brilliant set piece ability Liverpool possess – they are the Premier League’s top scorers of goals from dead-ball situations over the last three seasons – winning free-kicks in dangerous positions will make Jota an asset to his new side.
It will be interesting to see how he slots into Klopp’s team. The Liverpool manager could utilise the occasionally-but-rarely-seen 4-2-3-1 formation in order to accommodate his new forward alongside his familiar front three. It’s a system which would suit fellow new boy Thiago Alcantara too.
Jota was mostly deployed on the left of a front three in 2019/20 though. Nuno Espirito Santo generally used either a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formation last season, and Jota was usually on the bench when he opted for the latter.
His total of one league assist might suggest he doesn’t link up well with colleagues, but his expected assist tally of 2.6 implies he was unlucky to only see one of the chances he created result in a goal.
Jota’s shot-creating actions tell an interesting tale too. He played a total of 52 passes which led to a shot attempt, but only directly created 32 chances. In other words, he was often found playing the pass to the player who went on to set up a scoring opportunity, and those passes can be just as important.
He certainly had a clearly favoured partner in 2018/19, though. Jota picked up five assists in Wolves’ first season back in the Premier League, and the quintet of goals were all scored by Raul Jimenez.
Only two combinations in the top flight linked up for more goals that season, and it’s hard not to conclude that Roberto Firmino could be the main beneficiary of Jota’s creativity based on that particular statistic.
But however Klopp chooses to use Jota, the Portuguese looks set to bring some new characteristics to the Liverpool squad.