Diogo Jota may start out as Liverpool’s £45m substitute but he could prove to be worth his weight in gold… ahead of his expected debut at Lincoln tonight, just what can he offer Jurgen Klopp?
- Diogo Jota is set to make his Liverpool debut against Lincoln in the Carabao Cup
- The Portuguese forward was a surprise £45m signing from Wolves last week
- He scored 16 goals in all competitions last season in a productive campaign
- Jota will be used as a back-up to Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino
- But can he make an instant impression with an eye-catching display tonight?
Ahead of his expected debut tonight, do not underestimate Diogo Jota.
A hefty £45million fee may have caught people off guard, but over time he may well prove to be worth his weight in gold in a gruelling season for Jurgen Klopp’s champions.
A back-up to the lethal attacking trio of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino he might be, but with the amount of games Liverpool are expected to play this season, strength in depth is a necessity and the Portuguese will get his chance.
Starting tonight, in the Carabao Cup third round away to League One side Lincoln City. Judging by his cup performances for Wolves last season, the 23-year-old won’t squander his opportunity to make an impression from the off.
Diogo Jota is set to make his debut tonight against Lincoln in the Carabao Cup third round
The 23-year-old Portuguese forward scored 16 goals for Wolves in all competitions last season
Jota scored 16 goals in all competitions last season for Nuno Espirito Santo’s overachievers, including a pair of hat-tricks in the Europa League.
In fact, the pause in the season in mid-March due to the coronavirus crisis came at exactly the wrong time for Jota. He had just scored six goals in three games at the back-end of February, including a three-goal showing on a memorable night at Molineux, in a 4-0 win over Espanyol.
However, it would be unfair to analyse Jota’s attributes by looking purely at his goals. After all, in a Jurgen Klopp side characterised by their work rate and relentless pressing, there’s an awful lot more to Liverpool’s attacking players than just their goal tally.
That point was specifically referred to by assistant coach Pep Lijnders, during his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
‘You saw our schedule? He will win matches. He is a player on the level of the front three technically, a pressing monster,’ said Lijnders, who was a key factor in signing Jota after receiving reports of the player from his time at Porto in 2016-17.
Reds assistant Pep Lijnders (left) was a key factor in Jota signing following his time at Porto
‘The adaptation will hopefully be quite quick, with good players it is normally quite quick. He has to learn our game and the way we want to do things.
‘When we see him play in the national team for Portugal we see them play 4-3-3, there are a lot of similarities between these two teams.
‘He will play. He has been bought to create solutions for us.’
Competing alongside Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino – and Rhian Brewster, should he stay at the club in the coming weeks – one of Jota’s fundamental strengths is his versatility across the forward positions.
During his two years in the west Midlands, he operated on both flanks, as a second-striker, a centre-forward and as an attacking midfielder positioned slightly deeper.
Jota will be an alternative to the front three of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino
Jota’s goal from close range against Tottenham last season was due to his anticipation
Last season, 10 of Jota’s 16 goals last season were first-time finishes, with six coming from the six-yard box, according to Total Football Analysis.
That represents what may well be his greatest attribute: anticipation. Knowing when to make the run, when to hold back and when to press are ingredients any Klopp forward-man must intrinsically know.
Blessed with nippy pace off the block, a low centre of gravity and a knack for being in the right place at the right time, Jota’s individual style of play should complement Liverpool’s current philosophy quite perfectly this season.
Though Watford’s Ismaila Sarr – who scored twice against the Reds last season – was thought to be Klopp’s number one option, Jota is a more than apt alternative.
Already, he has experience at the top-level and his relationship with Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore in Wolves’ attack emphasises that fitting into the Liverpool lightning-fast system should be no problem at all.
Jota is a long-term investment for the club, having signed a five-year contract last week
And though the front-three – as they have been since Salah joined the club in 2017 – are set in stone, all it takes is one injury and Jota will be the man entrusted with deputising.
The 23-year-old is also a long-term investment, which may explain the eye-catching transfer fee.
A five-year contract was dished out and with the front-three all in their late 20s, and with Salah and Mane expected to be away with their countries for the African Cup of Nations midway through next season, Jota could become the main man in the Reds attack at a crucial time in the campaign. When? Only time will tell.
More immediately though, the Portugal international who has been capped four times by his country is expected to be bedded in at Lincoln on Thursday night.
Jurgen Klopp will be keeping a keen eye on his second-string players on Thursday night
Jota could well start alongside fellow attackers Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino tonight
Straight away, it represents an opportunity for Jota to get off the mark against opponents who, on paper, should be no match for even a depleted Liverpool side, with Klopp likely to ring the changes with one eye on the Premier League clash against Arsenal on Monday.
In fact, Jota could well start alongside Minamino and Origi. A battle behind the established triumvirate could play out from the off.
But with creativity, panache and confidence in abundance, the £45milllion substitute may well surge ahead of his team-mates in the pecking order, just one game in.
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