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It hasn’t taken Diogo Jota long to make his mark at Liverpool.
Jurgen Klopp said the 23-year-old was perfect for the Reds when he signed from Wolves, and the early evidence is that he was spot on. He’s only been on Merseyside a month, but the new boy already looks very much at home.
“Good player, eh?” said Klopp when asked byGoalabout Jota's impact since his £45million ($59m) move.
“He’s easy to like because he’s such a likeable person, and he’s a good player – that’s why we signed him!”
Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher say they used to know within a couple of weeks if a new signing was going to be ‘a Liverpool player’. They’d see it in the way they trained, how they coped in the small-sided games at Melwood, how they carried themselves about the place. They’d know.
One imagines those two legends would have loved Jota; loved his energy, his positivity, his movement and his confidence. “A pressing monster,” assistant manager Pep Lijnders labelled him upon his arrival, but his talents stretch way beyond his defensive work.
“Heis quick, he has the physicality, is strong, good in the air, good on the ground…” said Klopp on Saturday. “Those are the qualities we need.”
Jota’s goal against Sheffield United - the winner, as it turned out – will certainly have pleased Klopp and his coaches. It was a fine header, firm and true, and it means he has now scored in each of his first two home league games for the club.
Not even Mo Salah, the record-breaker extraordinaire, managed that. Sadio Mane, in fact, was the last man to do it, back in 2016.
If Jota can have anything like the same impact as those two, of course, he’ll have done well, but his arrival certainly makes Liverpool stronger. For so long, they have craved that extra attacking option and now they have it; someone with the physical and technical attributes as well as the versatility, to play with or instead of that famous, brilliant front three.
Depth may well be king in this most bizarre of seasons, and Jota, along with the fast-developing Takumi Minamino and the curiously-underused Xherdan Shaqiri, will surely provide that, whether from the start or off the bench.
It also means Kloppcan tweak his system, if he so wishes. He went for a 4-2-3-1 against Sheffield United -a significant change, given how wedded he has become to the 4-3-3, and one which enabled him to field all four of his 'big' attackers at the same time.
“We wanted to try something different, to causesome problems,” he explained afterwards.
Jota, effective off the bench on the left at Ajax in midweek, moved to the right against the Blades, with Salah playing as the No.9 and Roberto Firmino dropping into a more withdrawn role behind.
Firmino, as it happened, grabbed Liverpool’s equaliser, his first goal of the season and only his third in his last 27 appearances. The Reds will hope for a few more from the Brazilian, now the duck is broken.
Jota’s first half was low-key, his main contribution a dangled leg on the edge of his own box which might, on another day, have led to a penalty for Sander Berge.
His best work came when he sidled in-field from the right, seeking to connect with Salah, Firmino and Co. His work rate was admirable – only Jordan Henderson won possession back more often, while only Firmino attempted more sprints – and when the chance came in front of goal, it was taken. What more could you ask for, as a manager?
“It was a super goal,” said a smiling Klopp, before adding a trademark note of caution.
For now, though, Liverpool will take what they are getting from their new signing.