When the final whistle blew following Liverpool’s enthralling 2-2 against title-challenging Arsenal last month, Diogo Jota’s goalless run stretched to 32 matches.
The Echo’s Ian Doyle stated that the Portuguese was a man ‘desperately in need of a goal’, with the barren run sandwiching a lengthy tussle with injuries that had hampered his progress and ruled him out of 23 matches this season.
His deserted cutting edge was not for want of trying; over the past year, the £140k-per-week star has taken an average of 2.87 shots per 90, as per FBref, putting him among the top 15% of attacking midfielders and wingers across Europe’s top five leagues for that statistic.
His creativity has also been invaluable to Liverpool when he has been fit, ranking among the top 1% for rate of assists and registering eight across all competitions this term, despite only starting on 13 occasions across all competitions.
Jota has now plundered five goals from his past five matches, starting just three of those contests, instrumental with braces against Leeds United and Nottingham Forest and defying logic with his 94th-minute strike to defeat Tottenham Hotspur – who had clambered back from a three-goal deficit at Anfield.
Who could Jota replace at Liverpool?
Liverpool have certainly not been at the races this season and have fallen well below expectations with their lack of cohesion and dismal away form, failing to clinch any major honours and unlikely to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in seven years.
Despite this, recent fortunes have been promising and Jurgen Klopp’s Reds currently ride a five-match win streak in the top flight; with four matches left to play, ceding territory is simply not an option and pressure must be placed on Newcastle United and Manchester United, who occupy third and fourth place in the table and have both played fewer matches than Liverpool.
Jota, who has been lauded as a “pressing monster” by Pep Lijinders, must be unleashed with regularity in the place of Luis Diaz, who has recently returned from a long-term injury and has, understandably, fluctuated somewhat with his performances.
Having been a “livewire“, as remarked by Pete Hall, for Klopp’s team since his arrival from Porto last year in a £37m deal, Diaz has scored 11 goals and supplied eight assists from 43 appearances and been praised for his fleet-footed brilliance by his manager, who called him “exceptional”.
However, with no margin for error at this vital stage of the campaign, the 30-cap Jota, who has scored ten goals for his nation, would be the better option to place into the starting fold given his recent return to goal-scoring form.
There is no doubt that Diaz is one of the most talented and exciting wingers in European football, let alone the Premier League – valued at £79m by CIES Football Observatory but with the slightest slip-up perhaps detrimental for Liverpool at this stage, Jota simply has to start.