Diogo Jota: The next Premier League Superstar?

Diogo Jota continues to impress with every opportunity for both club and country. The electrifying Portuguese forward netted 3 goals and 1 assist in just 2 matches over the latest international break, showcasing elite goal-scoring instincts. In a team including the likes of Christiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix, and Bruno Fernandes it was Diogo Jota who shined the brightest of them all. Jota followed up the international break with a 2-goal performance against Arsenal at the weekend, despite not coming on until the 61’.

Everything the young forward touches at the moment turns to gold. Since making the move to Liverpool over the summer – coming from Wolves for a fee of £45m – the 24-year-old has been an exceptional attacking option for Jurgen Klopp when healthy and despite missing almost 3 months with a knee injury looks to be one of the smartest Premier League signings of the summer.

Since returning from injury Jota has been excellent. Klopp will surely have a hard time leaving him out of the starting lineup for the upcoming Champions League tie against Real Madrid – the Portuguese star could be the perfect x-factor against the Spanish side. However, Jota needs to be in the starting 11 beyond that matchup. He gives Liverpool a spark and energy that they have often lacked this season. Much more than just a forward who happens to be hitting a good patch of form, Jota is an incredibly talented and intelligent attacker with all the tools to become a true superstar in European football. In this article we will look at what makes him such an effective goal scorer and why he is ready to step into the Liverpool starting 11 and join world football’s elite.

What Makes Jota so Dangerous?

Jota has several of the characteristics needed in a great goal scorer. His movement in and around the penalty area is exceptional; able to find space for himself and arrive at the perfect time to finish attacking moves. Jota also possesses the technique to play in tight areas. His first touch is elite and he has the ability to create a yard of space to shoot off of the dribble. Finally, Jota is an excellent finisher who consistently outperforms his xG. He has the ability to finish with either foot and has a knack for driving balls low and hard into the corner of the goal. Despite not being particularly tall at 5’10, Jota is surprisingly adept at winning headers in the box as well which we will see later on.

Movement

Jota is excellent at finding and attacking space in the final third. He uses a variety of runs and has the versatility to take up different positions in attack. His combination of quickness and awareness allows him to receive the ball in threatening positions. A common run that Jota utilizes is the out-to-in run from either half space. We can see that here in his second goal against Serbia.

When the ball is played out wide to Cedric, Jota realizes there is space to exploit between the Serbian center backs. Stefan Mitrovic of Serbia is pulled away from the area by the run of Bruno Fernandes, leaving a gap in the defense. Jota has the quickness and intelligence to exploit the space.  

Because of the intelligent run, Jota is able to score an unchallenged header from the penalty spot, finding the bottom left corner and beating keeper Marko Dmitrovic.

Next, we will look at his first of 3 goals against Atalanta in the group stage of the Champions League. Jota was fantastic in this match, stepping into the center forward position this time and showcasing his versatility in attack. In the picture below you can see Jota once again recognizing and exploiting the open space. This time he makes an inside-to-out run in behind the defense. Atalanta’s left center back Djimsiti steps out of the defensive line to mark Curtis Jones, leaving the gap in behind for Jota to run in to. With Atalanta’s left wing-back keeping him onside, Jota points to the space indicating to teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold exactly where he wants the ball delivered.

After making the run he then has the pace and power to fight off the Atalanta defender and finish with his left foot to open the scoring in Liverpool’s favor.

As you can see Jota is able to affect the game from multiple spots on the field and can exploit spaces with different types of runs – a nightmare for the defense. His intelligent movement shows up in the stat sheet as well. Since joining Liverpool, Jota averages 10.7 progressive passes received per 90 in all competitions, along with 6.5 touches in the attacking penalty area per 90 – putting him above the 80th percentile in both categories across Europe’s top 5 leagues. The numbers suggest Jota is a player who constantly looks to receive the ball in dangerous areas and make runs into space in the final third.

Ball Control

The next part of Jota’s game that we will be looking at is his ball control ability. Jota is an elite ball carrier and dribbler. With 6.41 progressive carries per 90 and 1.64 dribbles completed per 90, he is supremely comfortable with the ball at his feet. This talent carries into the penalty area where Jota uses his technical quality to evade defenders and create the space necessary to shoot.

His first touch is excellent as well, allowing him to control balls out of the air with precision despite pressure from defenders. This is one of his most important qualities and allows him to score goals that other players would not be able to. We can see a great example of his deadly first touch here in his second goal against Atalanta from their Champions League clash.

Again, we see excellent movement in behind the defense. But what makes this goal special is Jota’s ability to control and score with just 2 touches from a difficult angle. Able to shift the ball from one side to the other at speed and get on the end of it before the defender can adjust.    

Next, we will look at an example of how Jota uses his technical quality to navigate a crowded penalty area.  

Here, Jota finds a pocket of space in the defense just above the penalty area but still has plenty to do as there are 5 Brighton defenders in the area ready to converge on the ball.

In the clip below you can see how Jota first identifies and moves into the pocket of space to receive the ball from Salah. His first touch is superb, taking the ball away from the first tackler and in between 2 defenders. He then has the quality and composure to evade the next defender and wait for the opening to goal, finding the bottom left corner and splitting the Seagulls last line of defense.

This ability to keep the ball close in the penalty area makes Jota extremely dangerous, even more so in today’s game with VAR making defenders hesitant to put tackles in.

Finishing

Of all the qualities of Jota’s game maybe the most impressive is his finishing ability. The former Wolves star is extremely clinical in the final third. What makes him so special in the finishing department is the ability to use both feet to deadly effect. Despite being listed as a right-footed player, Jota scores at very nearly the same rate with his left and is one of the true two footed players in world football. This ambidextrous quality gives him the ability to play anywhere along Liverpool’s front 3 without limiting his goalscoring potential.

As you can see in the graphic below, Jota is more than comfortable with either foot. Since 2018-19 he has actually attempted more shots with his left foot which is quite incredible for a right-footed player.

The xG numbers indicate that Jota is slightly more proficient with his right but not by much. As an inverted left-forward, (Jota’s most-used position) he has the ability to cut in and shoot with his right or stay outside and finish with his left. The xG shot map below helps to paint a better picture. Jota attempts the majority of his left-footed shots from the left-hand side, using the left-footed shot as a counter-option to cutting inside. This ability to go either way puts defenders in a tough spot and makes him that much harder to defend.

Jota also scores quite often from right in front of goal, particularly with his right foot. This points to a player who knows how to time his runs into the box and get on the end of crosses.

Credit: Squawka

Let’s look at Jota’s shot placement next. He has a talent for driving the ball hard and low into the bottom left corner of the goal. Utilizing the bottom corners is something we see in many of the great goal scorers. These shots are extremely difficult for a goalkeeper and Jota knows how to exploit this area with either foot.

Credit: twenty3

Here we can see two great examples from Jota’s time at Wolves. These clips demonstrate the ability to finish from the left channel with either foot. This ability puts defenders in a predicament – Jota is more than happy to finish with whichever foot that he is given space to shoot with.

Against Manchester United the defender is left in a 1v1 situation and chooses to cut off the inside, not allowing Jota to shift the ball over onto his right foot. However, Jota is happy to drive forward and finish with his left. Still able to pick out his favorite bottom left corner.

Against Espanyol, Jota is given the space to cut inside instead and is able to finish just as clinically with his right foot into the same corner.

Lastly, although not a dominant aerial presence at just 5’10, Jota is still a threat to score with his head. In fact, 3 of his last 4 goals have come from headers – showing great improvement in this area of his game. He has fantastic awareness in the penalty area as we have seen, which allows him to settle into open spaces before a cross, giving him free heading opportunities.

In the images above you can see how Jota is proactive in his positioning before crosses come in – finding space in between defenders. Here, in both of his recent headed goals for Portugal, Jota settles into the space between defenders when he sees the opportunity for the ball to come into the box. This is key as it allows Jota to get free headers in the box where he otherwise would have contend with much taller central defenders.  

Conclusion

Diogo Jota has been in fantastic goal scoring form when healthy this season, but it is not by luck or by chance. He combines extraordinary talent with excellent awareness and intelligence – consistently putting himself in positions to score goals. He is a true triple threat in the penalty area able to score with his left foot, right foot, and from headers.

With rumors surrounding Mohammed Salah’s future at Anfield, Liverpool may soon turn to the young Portuguese attacker to fill his shoes. If that is case, Jota can be the perfect replacement, equipped with all the tools necessary to step into Salah’s role as the side’s primary goal scoring threat. But those transfer rumors may never materialize and even if Salah stays put Klopp would be wise to feature Jota more regularly moving forward. He is proving his ability and his consistency each time he steps on the pitch and could be a key figure in The Red’s attack for years to come.    

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