Diogo Jota must GRAB chance to become Liverpool's No.1 attacker next season

Diogo Jota scored his 15th goal of an injury-plagued campaign during Liverpool's 3-1 win at Fulham, then he went and got injured again.

The last few games have provided further proof of just how big a loss Jota has been, with yet more profligate finishing on show from Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez.

Jota has averaged a goal or an assist every 88 minutes in the league in 2023/24, and a goal every 115 minutes, which is the "best rate of any player with 5+ non-penalty goals and 10+ non-penalty goal involvements in the competition", as per OptaJoe.

The 27-year-old has become priceless to this Liverpool attack when fit, having often been seen as an excellent squad option at one point, and his absence is a bodyblow for a Liverpool side who have tumbled out of contention for the Premier League title.

If fit, he should now walk into the Reds' strongest possible XI, with none of his fellow attackers displaying his level of nervelessness in front of goal.

Liverpool vs Brentford

Football - FA Premier League - Brentford FC v Liverpool FC LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool s Diogo Jota is treated for an injury during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda LONDON Brentford Community Stadium GREATER LONDON ENGLAND PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK Copyright: xDavidxRawcliffex P2024-02-17-Brentford_Liverpool-77

There are doubts over the others burying a huge chance, including the legendary-but-out-of-sorts Salah, but Jota has ice in his veins and seems to be at his best in the most pressurised moments.

It is no surprise that Liverpool's most wasteful spell of the campaign came largely without the Portugal international involved - granted, he missed a sitter against Crystal Palace - and him being out has effectively had a big say in the Reds' title dream going up in smoke.

With the remainder of this season now a washout, it is time to look at the bigger picture when it comes to Liverpool under their incoming head coach Arne Slot, and how the attack should shape up.

There is a strong claim to say that Jota looks the most nailed-on to be Liverpool's most important attacking player under the new boss, with doubts surrouding all of his team-mates in the final third.

Diaz and Salah transfer reports

Diaz continues to be linked with a summer move to Barcelona, and even if he does stay put at Anfield, he is flawed when it comes to numbers and consistency.

The Colombian is an excellent footballer capable of dazzling brilliance on his day - he was the one player who kept giving his all at Goodison Park and against West Ham last weekend - but at 27, it is hard to see his end product ever becoming truly elite.

Some find the Sadio Mane comparisons unfair, but this is the level Liverpool need to be aiming for, and Diaz will always be short of the Reds' iconic former No.10.

Then there's Salah, who before we start rewriting history because of one bad run of form, is unquestionably one of the club's finest-ever players.

Mohamed Salah Trent Alexander-Arnold Everton 2023-24

He looks a shadow of himself currently, however, and with his 32nd birthday approaching this summer, a mammoth bid from a Saudi Pro League will be worth considering for Michael Edwards, Richard Hughes and company.

Admittedly, there is every chance that Salah stays, still has plenty left in the tank and makes talk of his demise look foolish, but for the first time, there are genuine concerns that he may have peaked.

Doubts persist over Nunez and Gakpo

Nunez has been much-loved, but there are also now worries that he lacks the all-round football intelligence and consistency to lead the line for Liverpool for years to come. Patience is wearing thin.

Given the money the Reds paid for him, and the fact that he isn't a young player now, more is needed. Rawness can't be used as an excuse when you're about to turn 25.

Like Salah, form has deserted Nunez, which happens with every player, so an overreaction is uncalled for, but even his most ardent supporter will have doubts over whether he is the answer for Liverpool.

The same applies to Cody Gakpo, who is a completely different player to Nunez, offering subtetly over his team-mate's chaotic nature, but he is too often on the periphery of matches and doesn't use his physical attributes enough.

His first 15 months in a Liverpool shirt have been largely hit-and-miss.

Jota can become Arne Slot's greatest asset

So when you weigh up the Reds' attack, Jota is the one player who looks in his prime, and the forward who Slot should see as his greatest asset in that area going forward.

His world-class level of finishing, coupled with a great team ethic and intelligent tactical mind, make him a wonderful option.

The injuries are a worry, which is a major downside, with his brave nature often getting him into precarious situations, but he is a special footballer who has found a new gear this season.

In hindsight, If Liverpool were to have any chance of pipping Manchester City or Arsenal to title glory, they needed Jota available and producing big moments week in, week out.

Jurgen Klopp has been cruelly robbed of that, but it's now time to focus on the future, with the incoming manager building the attack around him, assuming he can rid himself of the fitness issues.

Salah could easily bounce back, and Nunez could yet explode, but the Portugese now feels like the Reds' safest bet in the final third, both currently and moving forward.

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