Diogo Jota Is Exactly What Liverpool Needed
2:40 PM EST on November 4, 2020
It's hard to pick the nits of a club that just won the Champions League and the Premier League, the latter in historic fashion, in back-to-back seasons, but Liverpool wasn't perfect heading out of the 2019–20 season. Though the starting XI was likely Europe's best, the Pool Boys had a concerning lack of depth. In typically savvy fashion, the club went about addressing those issues in the offseason, most prominently with the brilliant addition of Thiago. However, the club's decision to splurge nearly €50 million on Wolverhampton's Diogo Jota could be just as important in helping the Reds stack the cabinet with even more trophies.
So far, Jota has been almost literally perfect. The Portuguese forward was signed to provide depth to what is arguably the world's best forward line, and he's succeeded so well at the job that he might wind up forcing manager Jürgen Klopp into a tactical switch to get him onto the pitch even more. In Liverpool's Champions League match against Atalanta on Tuesday, Jota stepped into the starting lineup in place of Roberto Firmino. The 23-year-old returned the manager's faith with a hat trick to help lead Liverpool to a breezy 5–0 away win in Bergamo.
His first goal saw him muscle off an Atalanta defender before notching a nice little chip into the net, the second featuring a beautiful touch and near-post half volley, and the third had him running past the defense and dribbling around the goalie for an easy open-net finish. For the season, Jota now has seven goals in nine appearances for his new club, providing quite the spark whenever he's gotten a run.
While Liverpool's front three are already legendary in their prolific scoring and seamless cohesion, it's exceedingly valuable that the club now has a substitute and rotation option that can configure in regardless of who is getting a rest. Jota can play up the middle if Firmino is out, or on either side if Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mané need a breather. He is also equally adept at hunting his own goals, creating for others, and pressing in the style that Klopp's system demands. In other words, he's a prototypical Liverpool player, and his versatility allows him to fill a critical role as a top-class backup to each of the three horsemen of the Kloppocalypse. And in the form he's in now, it would be no shock if Klopp favors Jota over Firmino in certain games, or if he tries playing Jota alongside all three.
The Premier League season is long and grueling, as is the type of Champions League run that Liverpool will hope to undertake after a disappointing round of 16 exit last season. Having rotation options in key places will allow Liverpool to keep its best players healthy and fresh for the biggest matches both domestically and in Europe. The club still has one glaring depth issue in central defense, especially now that Virgil van Dijk will be out most of the season, but no longer will the first attacking option of the bench be Divock Origi or Xherdan Shaqiri.
With Jota, and what the club hopes will be a good full first season for Japanese forward Takumi Minamino, the attack that won Liverpool the two most coveted titles will not suffer should any of the starting front three go down. While the price tag might have seen as a bit of a reach by some (this blogger included), Jota's hot start has already made it seem like yet another in a long series of title-winning signings made by the Liverpool brass.