Liverpool have had to dig deep in recent weeks. That’s all they can do. Jurgen Klopp has had to consistently chop and change his squad in order to combat the growing number of injuries headaches that keep unfolding at Anfield. Despite so much adversity, the Reds are still the team to beat and are top of the league largely due to the impact of a number of standout players. James Pearce of The Athletic has picked out one outstanding candidate for particular praise.
Diogo Jota this season
Summer signing Diogo Jota has been a revelation for Liverpool since completing a £41 million move from Wolverhampton Wanderers in September.
The Portugal international has hit the ground running for the Premier League champions and is already looking to disrupt the attacking dynamic of Liverpool’s pedigreed front-three.
Jota, 23, has scored four goals for his new side in just seven league and European appearances – only three of which were starts.
In Liverpool’s most recent match, a 2-1 victory against West Ham, it was Jota who was the match-winner for a third successive occasion after he netted the winner following a Xherdan Shaqiri assist.
With Manchester City on the horizon, Jota is making a strong case that he should be included in Klopp’s starting XI to face the English champions’ fiercest title rivals.
With Roberto Firmino currently in the firing line in terms of criticism following another uninspiring display at the weekend, Pearce of The Athletic has made a big selection prediction ahead of the clash at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
‘Looks like he’s been a Liverpool player for years’
There were some eyebrows raised when Liverpool decided to sanction a deal for Jota in what was dubbed by many as an eye-watering amount of money.
However, in next to no time, Jota has made such an investment feel like small change when you consider the immediacy of his impact coupled by the fact he is only 23-years-old.
Pearce has been particularly impressed with Jota’s performances and has lauded the former Atletico Madrid talent following his latest heroics to help inspire Liverpool’s fifth league victory of the season.
Speaking on The Athletic’s Red Agenda podcast, he said: “He has been an absolute revelation from the moment he walked in.
“Everything Klopp has spoken about when he was unveiled as a signing has proved to be correct, in terms of Klopp feeling the way that Wolves play isn’t too dissimilar to Liverpool. He felt there wouldn’t be too much of an adaptation period for him.
“He looks like he’s been a Liverpool player for years. You can see how much he loves being a part of this team.”
Liverpool have two hugely significant upcoming fixtures this week against Atalanta and Manchester City, both teams of which are renowned for their attacking talents in front of goal.
Both teams have a meticulous focus on their ability to generate shots more frequently than their opponents which is why both footballing enterprises unsurprisingly were the top two attacking outlets in Europe’s top-five leagues last season.
With that said, Pearce doesn’t expect Klopp to go with the 4-2-3-1 system that has been utilised in recent weeks. Instead, the reputable journalist has backed the manager to revert to the more balanced 4-3-3 formation.
“The interesting thing is with the two games Liverpool have this week [Atalanta and Manchester City away] I don’t think 4-2-3-1 will be in Klopp’s thoughts”, Pearce added.
“That would just leave Liverpool too open against teams of a higher calibre to the ones they’ve beaten without Van Dijk since they lost him, teams, who will take the game to Liverpool and ask more questions defensively.
“For me, I think Klopp will rotate things in midweek but it’s going to be fascinating to see if Klopp leaves Firmino out against City.
“I can’t think of another big game he’s missed out on since when he’s been available since Klopp came in as he’s been so integral to everything Liverpool have achieved.
“I thought Firmino really struggled again on the weekend and Liverpool were absolutely energised by that double substitution with 20 minutes to go where Jota and Shaqiri and the impact they had. For me, I would be starting Jota ahead of Firmino at the Etihad.”
What RTK has to say
Pearce is absolutely spot on. Both Atalanta and City are dangerous teams especially in terms of building attacks from the back.
If Liverpool deploy the same 4-2-3-1 system Klopp utilised against FC Midtjylland, we risk getting exposed in the same way Aston Villa were able to do us.
The expected returns of Joel Matip and Thiago Alcantara could help Klopp incorporate a similar system that worked particularly well against Everton as both players provide greater balance and security from a defensive standpoint.
Also, with the inspiring form of Jota, Liverpool have the perfect attacking weapon they can unleash to catch both City and Atalanta off guard.
Let’s hope Klopp’s resilient Reds can continue to thrive amid what has been an injury-ridden campaign so far, to say the least.
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