Diogo Jota has had a blistering start to his career at Anfield since he transferred from Wolves for £ 41m in the summer, with many supporters curious as to why the Portuguese forward didn’t perform so well at his previous club.
Jota’s league-wide reputation at Molineux was good, but not much more after the 23-year-old averaged 11 goals and assists per season since he was promoted from the championship in 2017-18.
In just 482 minutes of Premier League football for Liverpool, Jota has already scored five goals, one of which averages every 96.4 minutes, but it is unreasonable to suggest that the problem was the player beforehand.
While it’s normal for younger players to experience some degree of inconsistency from time to time, it’s more likely that Jota’s ceiling at Wolves was limited by the players around him and – especially – the team’s playstyle.
Liverpool identified Jota’s main strengths despite his environment before ruling that his game applied to the brand of football that Jurgen Klopp represents on Merseyside, with the forward being fast, direct, penetrating, versatile, bipedal and aggressive without the ball.
Some of those qualities have been hidden by Nuno Espirito Santo because of the way he thinks his own team should perform to score points.
Last season, Wolves were in the middle of the ball possession rankings with an average share of 48.3%, while also taking a tie for ninth for shots. On the defensive side of the game, Nuno’s outfit took second place due to the pressure in the offensive third of the field, with Wolves showing a preference to withdraw and absorb the pressure before opposing rather than high on it field like the Reds do.
Liverpool, on the other hand, came second for possession, third for shots and top for pressure in the offensive third, meaning Klopp’s attacking players in particular were given a more suitable platform to showcase their skills on the business side of the park.
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54% of Jota’s touches for the Reds came in last third place this season and 14% came from the penalty area. At Wolves last season, 50% of his touches came in the final third and 12.4% in the penalty area.
He now sees the ball more and – crucially – those touches are closer to the goal than before. Moreover, Jota now plays alongside the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson instead of players with less offensive qualities at Molineux.
Ahead of the two managers meeting this weekend, Jota could fill one of Klopp’s primary attacking roles as part of the current England champion and Nuno will be tired of his reformed threat. If the Portuguese eventually becomes the man who decides the outcome, the Wolves boss may look back to his former player before quietly questioning his own methods.