Liverpool have been struggling for goals recently, but Leanne Prescott writes that Diogo Jota’s return could be the boost The Reds need…
THE answer to the question ‘what has happened to Liverpool?’ really is as simple as it seems.
For all the explanations offered by pundits, the fact that so many key players have been missing over the course of the season should serve as ironclad proof.
The Reds are without the three centre-backs they started the season with. The two midfield stand-ins are also injured. Even newbie Ben Davies has spent time on the sidelines.
Continuous setbacks have hampered all momentum, with a crisis in defence having a detrimental effect to creativity from midfield. Even on the occasions when The Reds do create chances, they have failed to show their usual ruthless edge.
While the focus remains on the significance of injuries at the back, Diogo Jota’s absence has been felt just as strongly. Oh, how The Reds have missed him.
Few could’ve predicted the impact the Portuguese forward would have so soon into his Liverpool career, and it is his movement and ability to make things happen that has been rammed home during his absence.
He was lighting it up for The Reds at the start of the season, digging the side out of frustrating draws, turning one point into three against Sheffield United and West Ham, sealing the win versus Leicester alongside the opener against Midtjylland and a sensational hat trick at Atalanta.
A danger with his left foot, right foot and from headers having scored nine goals in 17 appearances, he quickly evolved from a supplement to the front three to the man for all occasions; a player whose speed, strength and composure saw him provide big goals in key moments. A shoo-in for signing of the season.
In his absence, the form has dipped, and the goals have dried up, with the 7-0 win at Selhurst Park an emphatic exception to the rule. Since the New Year, The Reds have scored just eight goals in the league, six of which came in the wins against Spurs and West Ham, the only occasions within the last 11 league games Liverpool have taken three points.
Jota’s return, then, can offer some welcome reprieve.
Too often of late, there has been a sense of predictability to The Reds. Teams come to Anfield and know how this team are going to set up. That there is now a recognisable blueprint on how to stop this team will be a huge concern for Klopp, and it’s vital they find a way to land a glove again.
Jota will be key to that. So often in those early months, he was often the one that constructed the attacks.
He would give and go. He would carve open the space. He would drive at the defence with the ball at his feet.
That added sense of unpredictability and injection of pace into the attack has been sorely missed since his injury in December and it is telling that both Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have struggled for goals since, with the Brazilian in particular forced to raise his game after increased competition from the 24-year-old.
Firmino has never been a prolific goalscorer for Liverpool – he hasn’t needed to be given the number of avenues to goal – but increasingly this season, the big chances have fallen to him and with the recent dearth of goals, there is a need for a more natural finisher.
Jota’s return to action can help plug that gap, with his mix of movement, speed and directness adding an extra dimension to the side, providing much needed reinforcements in attack with Divock Origi yet to score a goal in the league this season and Takumi Minamino on loan at Southampton.
Crucially, it also enables Klopp more tactical flexibility, interchanging between a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, with Firmino able to drop deeper, work in space and on the half-turn, utilising his creativity to help break down the low block.
Jota will no doubt need time to find his groove following a lengthy injury lay off, but his return to action serves as a much-needed boost in a season of setbacks.
Providing a combination of unpredictability and ruthlessness, he could hold the key for what’s to come.
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