Diogo Jota return provides ruthless edge Liverpool attack is missing

Yash Shah
2 months ago

Liverpool received a major boost with the return of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Diogo Jota and Stefan Bajcetic to team training this week.

But while the returns of Trent and Allison will be vital - there is no player whose absence in the past few weeks has been felt greater than Diogo Jota.

Jota was bought in to back up Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino but turned himself into a key player in Jurgen Klopp’s rebuild.

The 27-year-old has been out for the past two months with a knee injury, and his absence has coincided with Liverpool having a horrendous performance in front of goal in some important games.

The Liverpool number 20 has scored 14 goals in just 18 starts in all competitions this season, and his return will provide the Reds with a ruthlessness that they were lacking.

Goal scoring woes

Just like the stalemate against Manchester City and the FA Cup loss to Manchester United last month, Liverpool’s wastefulness in the final third again cost them on the weekend as they failed to avenge their cup defeat and regain top spot from Arsenal.

Their dominance was also reflected in the stats. 

Liverpool created 3.67 Expected Goals (xG) which was significantly more than United’s 0.70. They also had more shots (28 vs 9) and created more big chances (7 vs 1). But they squandered multiple opportunities and needed a Mohamed Salah penalty to salvage a draw.

Although Klopp’s side are the best in the league at creating such goalscoring opportunities, they are the only team amongst the three title contenders who are underperforming their xG.

Luis Diaz Liverpool

Expected goals on target (xGOT) is a post-shot variation of xG that assesses the quality of shots on target based on its end location. A higher xGOT value compared to the xG suggests a better finishing ability.

Liverpool's poor finishing is again apparent as they have also underperformed their xGOT, especially in big games.

Salah would often bail the team out of such periods but his lack of form after his return from injury has not helped their case.

Jota’s clinical finishing has been a big miss

Before Jota's injury, Liverpool had won six of their last seven league games, with him scoring five goals and setting up a further three in those matches.

His nine league goals come out to 0.78 goals per 90 and is a higher scoring rate than any Liverpool other attacker, edging even Salah’s 0.75 per 90. This is despite not taking any penalties unlike the Egyptian.

That goal output is even more incredible when you see that his xG of 0.38 per 90 is the lowest amongst Salah, Nunez, Diaz and Gakpo.

Non-Penalty Expected Goals per shot (NPxG/shot) looks at the average quality of goal scoring opportunities that a player receives. Jota’s figure of 0.12 once again ranks last amongst his peers.

This means that despite getting the worst quality and quantity of chances in comparison to his teammates, Jota managed to score the most goals on a 90 minute basis.

A part of this is down to his composure in the final third.

The former Wolves man is very quick to sort his feet and get his shot off, and gets the highest percentage of his shots on target (47.2%) among Liverpool’s attackers. He also has the uncanny ability to score from headers despite not being tall.

While the Reds may be underperforming their xG and xGOT overall, Jota has excelled in this regard. 

His xG over-performance of +4.6 indicates that he has scored four more goals than expected based on the quality of chances he received. 

Similar over-performance can be seen in his xGOT, highlighting his natural finishing ability and suggesting that he was in prolific goal-scoring form before his injury.

It is very likely that the Portuguese international would have fared much better had he been presented with some of the opportunities that Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez got over the past few weeks.

Jota came off the bench against Atalanta on Thursday, and his ability to be clinical in big moments can convert draws into wins and will be a big boost to Liverpool’s title charge.

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