Diogo Jota is making a quick impression amongst Liverpool supporters following his move from Wolverhampton Wanderers last month. Already, there have been calls to get him in the starting XI for today’s match with Sheffield United.
Jota, 23, is yet to start in either the Premier League or Champions League for Liverpool, yet his performances from the bench suggest he will be ready if given the chance.
Fitting the Portugal international into the starting XI isn’t so straight forward.
Somebody has to drop out, and who that should be, is contentious.
Upsetting the attacking dynamic of Jurgen Klopp’s front-three seems the obvious choice although the manager has shown reluctance to drop either Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane in the past.
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Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, is the club-captain and Liverpool’s irreplaceable chief organiser, he cannot afford to be dropped.
Best way to fit him in?
So that leaves three options. Jota could play in the central role at the expense of Firmino. However, he isn’t best utilised through the middle whereas someone like Takumi Minamino is arguably a better option to play as the central attacking figure.
Jota’s best option may be on the left. The ECHO reported this week that Klopp could look at integrating a 4-2-3-1 system when considering that Sheffield United like to play with a back five.
Getting Jota touches in the final third and inside the penalty area is key to his success, so playing him further forward could work.
But for this to work, Liverpool will have to drop one of Klopp’s options from his midfield triumvirate. Luckily, Fabinho’s recent integration into central defence makes this issue a little easier to solve.
Also, Thiago Alcantara is still a fitness concern having fell victim to a horror-tackle from Richarilson last week. With that said, Georginio Wijnaldum is Klopp’s best option to partner Henderson following a strong performance in midweek against Ajax.
With a trio of Jota, Firmino and Salah and Mane tucked in front, Liverpool will have four attacking options to break down a Sheffield United defensive unit whose style of play is built from the back.
That is a lot of creativity packed into a front four, before you even add in Jordan Henderson’s passing range as well as the crossing ability of full-back duo Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
There is a sacrifice by going with two midfielders as opposed to three, but there has to be a concession somewhere if Jota is to start.
The third option is again simply for Jota to come in for Firmino with Mane moving to the central role while the former Atletico Madrid prodigy is stuck on the left as he has been following his cameos from the bench.
Liverpool may need to experiment with Jota in the starting XI while they can as given the fact that all of the Reds’ front three will be 29 by the end of the season and an integration process of the next crop of attacking stars at Anfield will need to begin sooner rather than later.
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