Back in December last year Pep Guardiola quipped that a trip to Atalanta was like going to the dentist. Well, we all know that nobody enjoys a visit to the dentist – apart from Liverpool and Diogo Jota it seems.
The Portugal international hit new heights in a red shirt in Bergamo and truly announced himself as someone capable of adding a new dimension to Jurgen Klopp’s champions.
The 23-year-old has emerged as a revelation since joining the Reds from Wolves in the summer transfer window for a reported £41m, netting seven in 10 appearances and six in his last four. To put that into context, he has struck more times after 10 matches than any other Liverpool player since Robbie Fowler in 1993.
He also seems to have a knack for notching important goals. He snared league winners against both Sheffield United and West Ham, while opening the scoring on what was turning into a frustrating night at home to FC Midtjylland.
It’s early days, but at the moment he stands out as one of, if not, the Premier League signing of the summer window. That’s quite some statement given that a few eyebrows would have been raised when he was identified as the alternative to Timo Werner, a striker Jurgen Klopp and Co had long admired prior to his move to Chelsea and regarded as one of the hottest properties on the world market.
Jota’s arrival was met with little fanfare when compared to the outpouring of delight for Thiago Alcantara, who was being lauded as the world class signing to help take a supreme Liverpool team to a new level. Jota was seen by many as simply a man who could provide cover up front.
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Thiago was and still is earmarked to add creative genius to their workman-like midfield, an area where improvements could be more easily targeted. However, the Spaniard’s impact has been hindered by the coronavirus and a knee injury sustained in the Merseyside derby. Instead, it has been Jota who has taken these early months of the new season by storm.
It’s been the subject of much debate as to who Liverpool could actually sign to offer top quality support to their famous triumvirate, as such a player would probably need to be content with playing second fiddle to the main trio and take a leading role in the competitions further down their list of priorities.
Jota doesn’t seem to have paid much attention to that script. He’s writing his own story and so far it’s a very promising one.
Liverpool’s sporting director Michael Edwards deserves great praise once again for this shrewd bit of business. He has worked closely with Klopp and Mike Gordon on the club’s transfer strategy in recent years and is heralded as a key figure in the recruitment that has turned the Reds into one of the greatest Premier League sides in history. The club don’t necessarily sign established stars, but players they feel fit their model and that can grow and improve within the group. The likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are some of the obvious names that fit this criteria, and it appears they have done it again with Jota.
Liverpool's Portuguese striker Diogo Jota (L) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions league football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Liverpool, on November 3, 2020 at the Atalanta stadium in Bergamo
Image credit: Getty Images
Last week, Graham Ruthven penned an excellent piece asking at what point Jota becomes more than a depth option for the Reds. Just days later and it seems Liverpool’s No.20 is answering that question. His six-goal glut has come in just 10 days across four energy-sapping matches. Liverpool’s schedule is relentless, but it seems to be something Jota is relishing. Assistant boss Pep Lijnders called him a ‘pressing monster’ perfect for Liverpool, but even he and Klopp will have been surprised and delighted by just how big his impact has been.
The clamour for him to start ahead of goal-shy Roberto Firmino (three goals in 30 club appearances) was already beginning to gain plenty of traction with fans prior to this 5-0 rout of Atalanta, and after seizing the opportunity granted by Klopp with both hands in Italy, it would be a surprise if Jota returns to the bench for the Premier League trip to Manchester City on Sunday.
Firmino has been and remains a key part of the way Liverpool have played under Klopp, pressing with intensity and dropping deep to link play and allow Mane and Salah to drive in-behind from wide areas. But aside from a lack of goals, his form has dipped and Jota offers another way for that front three to operate. It’s a more flexible and direct trio when Jota comes in and that could prove highly effective on the counter attack at the Eithad Stadium.
The fact Jota is providing Liverpool with another option has led to plenty of debate amongst some supporters, particularly in the knee-jerk world of social media, but it really isn’t necessary to have a foot in just one camp. Liverpool have yet another frighteningly good attacking option and that should be a point of delight and something to leave opponents to worry about.
If anything, Jota’s form should demand a response from Firmino. The Brazilian’s regular starting place is very much under threat from the Portugal international at present, but that is where the top players have thrived over the years. They rise to the challenge of competition and it’s now up to Firmino to deliver by stepping up a gear.
So, it's over to you Bobby. Liverpool wants to start talking about another Fab Four once more, and the mere fact the front three doesn't just pick itself now sums up just how impressive Jota has been so far.