Liverpool

Diogo Jota gives Liverpool's front three something to think about

The arrival of the Portuguese forward gives the Reds' depth and means that the first choice forwards have competition

 
1:35pm on Sunday 20th September 2020
By
Nicholas Hughes

Liverpool have enjoyed a stellar 24 hours in the transfer window, announcing the signing of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich on Friday before Saturday’s capture of Wolves star Diogo Jota.

Despite the deal potentially reaching £45m, the Reds will part with a figure less than 10% of that over the next 12 months in another shrewd bit of business from Sporting Director Michael Edwards.

The 23-year-old will provide cover for the front three that fans have been desperate to see for quite some time, and should he develop as Jurgen Klopp would hope, there is a clear path for him to take the mantle from the current star trio when he reaches his peak.

The contrast between the two latest signings is evident, with Thiago very much the ‘win immediately’ signing whereas Jota would be seen as someone who, over the length of a five-year contract, will develop and hit his prime having become a vastly different player from the one that has arrived today.

Liverpool’s transfer model, particularly under the guidance of Edwards during Klopp’s reign, has been subject of much intrigue and continues to be so here with the Jota deal very reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah when they made their moves to Anfield.

Expected Goals (xG) and xG90 are incredibly similar among the three of them the season before they joined Liverpool – Salah emerging at Roma, Mane coming from Southampton and Jota the now former Wolves man.

With Jota being a left-sided player a comparison with Mane is more relevant. Key passes per 90 and Expected Assists (xA) are also nearly identical between the two, while Mane was slightly advanced having scored 21 goals and nine assists in two seasons for Southampton versus 16 goals and six assists for Jota.

Jota v Salah & Mane

StatJota 19/20Mane 15/16Salah 16/17
Age232324
Goals71115
Assists1511
KP901.121.412.56
xG900.460.430.48
xA900.100.180.35
Dribbles per 902.62.71.3
*League minutes only

The Portuguese had previously scored 17 times as Wolves romped to the Championship title and was a key part of Nuno Espirito Santos’ side in their Europa League campaign last season, with nine goals and four assists across 14 appearances, of which only eight were starts.

The deal represents a fairly large outlay for the Reds and is in fact the club’s fourth-highest transfer ever behind Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Naby Keita. For someone originally considered to be a back-up signing the fee is on the high side, but it appeared Liverpool’s best and most cost-effective option.

The Reds were believed to be long-term watchers of Ismaila Sarr who was a shining light in Watford’s otherwise dim 2019/20 season that ended in relegation. Klopp and his staff appeared to move on from the Senegalese international as the Hornets proved to be stubborn negotiators.

On the whole, Jota was a statistically better player last season and appears the better fit for Klopp’s system, surpassing Sarr in xG, KP90 and key stats such as dribbles, touches and shots per 90 minutes.

Liverpool’s new No. 20 also isn’t afraid of a challenge, averaging 16.8 duels attempted P90 last season with a success rate of just under 50%, while he picked up 11 yellow cards in 2018/19, with four bookings last season.

Klopp loves versatile players, especially in forward areas, and has experimented previously with the likes of Mane and Salah as well as Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi in all positions across the front line.

In his last 50 games for club and country, Jota has played 29 times as a centre forward and 19 times from the left wing, particularly in a Wolves system that has been so effective at adapting between a 3-4-3 and a 3-5-2 structure.

Upon the confirmation of the deal, Klopp said Jota will give his side an added unpredictability and provide “real options for different systems” in what will prove to be a busy season.

He has the speed, he can combine, can defend, can press. So, I’m really happy to have him here.Jurgen Klopp

Klopp has experimented with a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout pre-season, with Minamino key to that in the Community Shield. With Jota joining the Japanese as options in attacking areas, Liverpool’s depth and flexibility up front suddenly looks very strong.

Jota himself said he is “ready to play in each position that the manager wants” as he sets his sights on finding a place in the side in competition with Minamino and the star front three ahead of them.

There will certainly be an eye to the future with this deal, Jota being at least four years the junior of each of the front three members. While perhaps on the expensive side, the ceiling for the Portuguese is very high at Anfield, and his introduction is the perfect way to finalise the squad’s depth ahead of another tilt at silverware.

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