Why Liverpool signed Diogo Jota

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Last year, I spent about a week working on a project for work. With Liverpool in need of a fourth attacker, I took it upon myself to draw up a list of potential candidates. But before that, the challenge was to profile Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah before they moved to Anfield in order to spot trends. The idea was then to use those as a base to find players who might be on Michael Edwards’ list. 

Liverpool forwards need to be genuine goal threats, regardless of whether they’re consistently prolific. So, the open play expected goal contribution (xGC) per 90 was a metric used to flag viable options. This stat combines expected goals and expected assists.

Goals from inside the penalty area was also taken into account. If this percentage is high then it’s more likely that their goals are repeatable and sustainable.

Touches in the opposition box was a key metric, too, with players needing to be able to be comfortable in these areas. It shows composure and it shows they’re used to these situations easing the adjustment period.

For this list, we went with players with an xGC total of 0.43 and above, with a minimum of four touches in the box and a percentage of goals inside the area of 70 per cent or higher.

The final list included Federico Chiesa, Leon Bailey, Julian Brandt, Inaki Williams, Nicolas Pepe, David Neres and Diogo Jota. 

To round off my Jota write-up, I said something along the lines of If he was looking to move, he’s the sort of player who would look right at home in this Liverpool side. However, I never thought Wolves would part with the player, and if a club somehow convinced them to do so, I expected them to want £60million for him. 

The fact Liverpool have managed to get him for around £32million when you factor in the sale of KI-Jana Hoever represents superb value for money. Jota may not be as exciting as Adama Traore in the eyes of many or as prolific as Raul Jimenez, but the Portugal internal ticks all of the boxes for a wide forward at Anfield. 

He has an open-play expected goals per 90 average of 0.34 in the Premier League. That comes from a decent enough sample size of near 5,000 minutes. His expected assists average is 0.13 but Mane’s was only 0.17 while at Southampton. Combined, it takes Jota’s xGC total to 0.47 and that’s while playing in a conservative, counter-attacking side. 

The former Wolves man is a lot more similar to Mane than he is to Salah. Jota is frugal with his efforts, averaging just a little over two per 90. Mane’s average since moving to the Premier League has been around 2.5, Salah’s is near double that. The 23-year-old has one of the best shot maps around, though. Very few are outside the box and the majority come between the width of the six-yard box. His shot assist map shows that he’s creating a number of high-quality chances for team-mates, too. 

Twitter will have you believe Jota’s form is streaky and that he’s inconsistent. But Mane was predictably unpredictable during his time with Southampton. He could go months without a goal and then he’d score eight in four. 

Scoring is down to luck, getting into the dangerous areas is the real skill. If players show they’re able to do that, Jurgen Klopp and his coaching staff refine their approach and help develop them into more reliable outlets, just as they did with Salah and Mane. 

Finally, the last thing to look for in a potential Liverpool attacker isn’t something you can quantify. Versatility is vital. The Reds use a system reliant on specific profiles in certain roles. The arrival of Jota means Mane can be moved to the right, for example, and Klopp’s men don’t lose the pace, directness or the goal threat on the left. 

The former Atletico Madrid man can also play on the right and he’s played in a two-man attack for Wolves. He can cover across the front line and given his playing style is identical to the two wide forwards used by the Premier League champions, he can play in place or alongside the famed front three. 

It might not seem like it right now but Jota for £45million is a bargain in the current climate. He may not have been the first choice but more often than not, the second choice signings are the best ones Liverpool make. 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Really good article.
    As a Wolves fan I am happy with the deal the as I think Jota basically capped out as good as he is going to be for us, and £45 million is a great fee. He also wasn’t going to be first choice this year, although he’d still play a ton, as Nuno reportedly wants to change our style of play and we can’t afford to carry a player who has stretches of indifferent play like Liverpool can.

    I think some of his technical attributes are clearly lower than Mane (his first touch comes and goes) but he fits Liverpool’s system like a glove and I’d expect him to be a very good Mane replacement in the future because of his work rate and how direct he is.

  2. A well written and evidenced article, Sam. I drew the parallel with Mane also and recall a pod on Ai when we were linked to Sadio with a Southampton fan.

    In the pod he and some of the other contributors had doubts Sadio would be a fit and also had concerns about his consistency and temperament. They referenced the game v ourselves in which he scored a hat-trick and questioned why he didn’t start in the game.

    We now know that the 34 million we paid back in 2016 was an absolute bargain and all concerns around consistency and temperament are long forgotten such has been Sadio’s impact. Sadio now consistently turns in world-class performances and endearing himself to everyone, save the opponents and the poor soul who has to mark him for the 90 mins plus in each game.

    Our scouting team might well get one wrong sometime soon, the law of averages surely suggest this will be the case, but hey even if that day comes, I like yourself and the vast majority of Liverpool fans have complete faith in Klopp and his team.

    So in a non-conflictory manner Joe, Jota may be inconsistent now and you may be happy with the circa 45 million Wolves get for your boy, it’s a handsome return after all; you also get an extremely talented and very promising talent as part of the deal in Ki-Jana; but if Klopp and his team bring out the potential in Jota the metrics suggest 45 million may look like a snip.

  3. It may look like a snip in the future but candidly that’s rather reductive. I doubt Jota could develop into a player worth more than £45M at Wolves like he can at Liverpool.

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