Liverpool’s new signing Diogo Jota staked a claim to start against Manchester City on Sunday after a Champions League hat-trick against Atalanta.
The former Wolves forward has made an immediate impact since his arrival in September and is putting pressure on Roberto Firmino, who is the most vulnerable of the club’s established front three.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the Portugal international.
The 23-year-old has wasted little time in settling in, scoring seven goals in 10 appearances. However, a closer look at those statistics shows he has started only half of those games and played 90 minutes just once. He is averaging a goal every 75 minutes and the majority of his goals have come as a starter (five in five) but his goals as a substitute come at an average of one every 53 minutes. Jota is behind Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin in terms of goals per minute but, unlike his rivals, his ratio has been achieved when not a guaranteed first choice. His current form, however, may change that status very quickly.
Why has he been such a success so soon?
Much of Liverpool’s famed front three’s success is based on work-rate and leading the press. Jota has benefited in that Wolves have a similar style, if not the same system, which meant he is used to running hard and fast for long periods. That has given him a head start settling in at Anfield as he has only had to get up to speed on the tactical front, not a physical one – which often takes longer to reach the necessary levels to satisfy Jurgen Klopp, who in the past has held back the likes of Fabinho, Andy Robertson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when they first signed. A lot of credit also goes to sporting director Michael Edwards and assistant coach assistant coach Pep Lijnders – who recommended Jota from his previous experience in Portugal – for identifying a player available at a reasonable price with the potential to develop into a star in the same manner Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have done.
Does he get the nod over Firmino?
That was the case against Atalanta where Jota’s team-mate had the rare experience of being benched for the Champions League. Klopp has consistently picked the Brazil international for big matches but his place has been put under threat by the goals being scored by his rival. All four (Salah, Mane, Firmino and Jota) started together for the first time against Sheffield United 10 days ago and ironically Firmino and Jota were the goalscorers that day. However, it is unlikely Klopp will repeat that 4-2-3-1 formation many times and almost certainly not against City. Because of the Brazilian’s superior defensive work, and just 25 minutes’ action in midweek, there is a chance he will be preferred at the Etihad at the weekend – but it will be a close call.
How did Jota end up at Anfield?
A year ago the Portugal international was on the radar but not the top priority for Liverpool, who were looking at RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner as their potential big summer signing. However, the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Werner’s great expense (he eventually went to Chelsea for £48million on a reported £270,000-a-week salary) priced the Reds out of the market. They turned their attention to Watford’s Ismail Sarr only to baulk at the £50m total asking price with an initial £20m downpayment. Jota immediately became the best option with a potential deal worth up to £45m very much in the Reds’ favour. Of the initial £41m fee agreed, the club will pay only £4m in the first year.