Luis Diaz finds substance on top of style at crucial point in Liverpool's season

Luis Diaz is an incredible footballer to watch when he is in full flow.

His street-fighting style immediately makes him entertaining, with endless heart and unpredictability on show, not to mention quick feet and tireless running.

Since Diaz moved to Liverpool back in early 2022, however, there has been one stick to beat him with: a lack of elite end product in the final third.

For all the Colombian's attacking wizardry out wide, there have been times when a shortage of ruthlessness has been evident, not possessing the killer instincts of a genuinely world-class player like Mohamed Salah.

Even in that opening half-season at Liverpool in 2022/23, when the 27-year-old breathed new life into the Reds' season, he still ended the campaign with a tally of just six goals and four assists in 26 appearances.

Not a disastrous tally, by any means, especially for a player new to the Premier League, but not exactly earth-shattering numbers at the same time.

In fairness to Diaz, it is hard to assess his performances last season too greatly, considering he missed a vast chunk of action through injury, but this time around, some dissenting voices have emerged at times.

The situation surrounding the kidnapping of his father could well have taken its toll on his level of focus and output, it's worth stressing - some things in life are far more important than football - but criticism came his way during the first half of the season.

Not only was Diaz not affecting matches enough, finding himself on the periphery of things, but his goal and assist tallies left a lot to be desired, finding the net only three times come the start of November.

While Salah continued to provide end product for fun, and Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez also consistently delivered in important moments - Cody Gakpo was even the top scorer in the Carabao Cup at one point - Diaz wasn't producing the goods.

Liverpool vs Luton, Luis Diaz

Carabao Cup Final Package File photo dated 24-01-2024 of Liverpool s Luis Diaz second left celebrates scoring their side s first goal of the game during the Carabao Cup semi final second leg. Luis Diazs early deflected shot beat Bernd Leno at his near post and set Jurgen Klopps side on their way to Wembley. Issa Diops quick improvisation diverted home a cross with his thigh but they could not make further inroads. Issue date: Wednesday February 21, 2024. FILE PHOTO EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publica... PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUKxIRL Copyright: xBradleyxCollyerx 75402450

In recent months, however, the Colombia star's all-round performances have improving greatly, as well as his end product. He has come to the fore when Jurgen Klopp needed him to.

From being a frustrating player to watch, in terms of getting into great positions but not making the most of them, Diaz has started to deliver at big moments, playing a major role in Liverpool's Premier League title push.

Sunday's vital equaliser at home to Brighton was his 12th goal of an increasingly strong campaign, and the close-range nature of his strike at Anfield is something that has stood out with Diaz recently. He is scoring the type of goals that Sadio Mane used to.

He might not be scoring stunning strikes, beating three men and whipping the ball into the top corner, but he is now getting into good areas and finding the net, sometimes in scrappy but effective fashion.

This is exactly what has been needed from him, and six goals in his last 13 appearances is much more like it. He hasn't scored a brace in that time either, showing that he has affected numerous different games.

Diaz's effort levels can never be questioned - the work he got through in the Carabao Cup final win over Chelsea was scarcely believable - but it has always been this lack of end product that has separated him from the very best around.

Salah can have bad days at the office - but was fairly poor against Brighton, in truth - but so often, he proves to be the difference-maker in the final third, which is primarily what he is on the pitch to do.

His relentless return is what makes him one of the greatest attacking players of his generation, and if Diaz had the same in his locker, but would be every bit as good.

What we have seen from him since the turn of the year has been so promising, however, with a spark returning to his game and goals and assists arriving at a more rapid rate.

His performance between now and the end of the season are going to be so key.

Is Diaz the answer moving foward? The jury is arguably out. Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher has even suggested that the Reds could be wise to cash in on him this summer, saying on The Overlap:

"I’d be really interested in summer. With Liverpool getting a new manager, would that be a position that Liverpool could look at in the summer? Wide left. I think Diaz is good, I don’t think he’s great."

It will certainly be food for thought for FSG and incoming CEO of Football Michael Edwards, considering Diaz is now 27 years of age and may never quite be the same level of player that Mane was on the left flank at Anfield, for example.

We have to be careful that we aren't overly harsh on the former Porto ace, though, constantly comparing him to some of the greatest attacking players in Reds history.

We all want standards to be as high as possible, of course, but Diaz is a fantastic footballer in his own right, and Klopp may feel his job in the team is to stretch opponents rather than constantly be in good goalscoring positions.

There is a middle ground with him, in truth, with his finishing unlikely to ever be world-class - that huge one-on-one chance against Manchester City last month could look so key come May - but his quality still a great asset to this Liverpool team.

Selling Diaz in the summer would feel like the wrong decision, unless an eye-watering offer came along, and he has done more than enough in recent months to suggest that there is still plenty to come from him, having got through his family issues and also overcome the knee injury that kept him out for so much of last season.

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