DIOGO Jota wasn’t meant to be a superstar, but then few Liverpool signings are. The Anfield club have spent big on the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, however, their current team, competing for major honours on all fronts, has been built through a process of shrewder recruitment.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah all arrived on Merseyside for relatively modest fees and flourished into three of the best attackers in Europe. Jota, signed for a similarly modest amount two summers ago, is on the same trajectory with the 24-year-old now viewed as one of the Reds’ most important figures.
Jota embodies the best of Liverpool in the Jurgen Klopp era, and not just in the way he was scouted and signed either. The Portuguese international is as adaptable as anyone at Anfield right now, demonstrated by the number of positions he can play across the frontline. Jota is perfect for Liverpool’s fluid approach.
Klopp has used Jota, who has seven goals in just 12 Premier League appearances this season, through the middle as a centre forward where he gives Liverpool more aerial threat than Firmino does. He is still capable of dropping deep to create space in behind for Mane and Salah to burst into, but the 24-year-old’s natural game makes him a more orthodox option in the number nine position.
Firmino and Jota have also proved themselves as a good fit as a pairing in a 4-4-2 system, giving Klopp a different tactical option. In the past, the German has been reluctant to move away from his favoured 4-3-3 shape, but Jota has at least opened his mind to the possibility fo shaking things up from time to time.
Of course, Jota’s most natural position is on the left side of the front three where he can make good use of his dribbling skills. Only Salah can claim to have the combination of physical and technical skill that Jota has, making him one of the trickiest attacking players to dispossess in the Premier League.
Diogo Jota said he used ‘shot cancel’ off FIFA to score vs Arsenal ???? pic.twitter.com/laOZdHisAM
— The Anfield Talk (@TheAnfieldTalk) November 28, 2021
“He has the technical skills, he has the physical skills and he is very smart and can learn all the tactical stuff pretty quick,” Klopp explained after Liverpool’s 4-0 win over Southampton, in which Jota scored twice. “On top of that, he can play all three positions in a 4-2-3-1. He could play as the 10 too. He has the speed, he has the desire to finish situations off really well.”
Some fans and experts continue to argue that Liverpool need a world class number nine in the traditional mould to keep up with Chelsea, who have Romelu Lukaku, and Manchester City, who are still believed to be interested in signing Harry Kane in January or next summer. However, Jota already gives Liverpool this option, and so much more.
Under Klopp, Liverpool have been so successful because of their faithfulness to his footballing ideology. When others clamoured for it, the German recognised how dropping someone like Kane or Lukaku into his team would disrupt the dynamic of his team. Instead, he needed someone who was different enough to push Liverpool’s boundaries, but comfortable enough in Klopp’s system so not to change their identity as a side.
Not so long ago, it was the case that Liverpool’s lack of squad depth was seen as a weakness when weighed up against the depth of some of their rivals, most notably City. Now, though, Klopp has options. He might not have the numbers that Pep Guardiola has, but he has been smart in signing the right players to broaden Liverpool’s horizons. Jota is one of those players.