Can Jota Lead Liverpool’s Attack Next Season

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Jota vs Núñez: The Battle for Liverpool’s Top Striker

With so much talk surrounding the infectious yet inconsistent form Darwin Núñez, as well as the equally frustrating Cody Gakpo, there has been a post season clamour to see the new Liverpool CEO, Michael Edwards, avert his recruitment attentions to a new striker for the summer transfer window.

Anfield’s Striking Position

Within a common Jürgen Klopp system of 4-3-3, the Anfield central striking position has always been something that was different from the conventional. A false nine enterprise was perfected by the reds departed legend, Roberto Firmino, who has been almost impossible to replace in the aftermath of his own Merseyside exit. A clear shift in strategy was formulated at the beginning of the Brazilian forwards final season, one that saw the l record signing, Darwin, thrust into the striking position.

Darwin Núñez’s Struggles

Unfortunately for the former Benfica hitman, he was thrown into a team that was incorporating a regression heavy midfield, unbeknown to the coaching staff. The very first game of the 2022/23 season saw the 6ft 2inch player sent off, as newly promoted Fulham overpowered the reds tired middle men to record an unlucky draw. From that point onwards, the previous level of control was lost and the myth of the former mentality monsters meant that every contest became a battle that was too often lost.

Photo: IMAGO

Cody Gakpo’s Introduction

The desire to see a new number nine operate in more attacking positions was lost almost immediately, therefore, in the January window of that season, a more Bobby like replacement was signed in the shape of the PSV attacker, Cody Gakpo. From that moment until the present day, the entire forward line has been disjointed and unstable, which was in complete contrast to the world class trio which was steadily being replaced. The brilliance of Mohamed Salah was relied upon to the point of absurd, which puts a real question mark over who starts next season.

Forward Line Adjustments

I believe the forward line is the simplest area of the squad to adjust, especially with an expected 4-2-3-1 shape being endorsed by the new head coach, Arne Slot. In this similar formation, the centre forward should remain more prominent in the central areas and less reliant on pressing between the lines of the midfield and attack. Too often the work rate and explosive play of the reds attacks have meant that precision was lacking.

Role of the Centre Forward

Under new direction and with more refined and efficient patterns of play, the wingers and number ten (in a Slot team) could be more supportive and allow the spear of the attack to be a link player and goal getting striker. To look at one of the world’s best target men, Harry Kane, his type of game is based around instinctive strikes within the penalty box and intelligent interplay with the supporting cast. My sense is that Diogo Jota could deliver the perfect combination of predator and guile, in a role that would be less taxing on his body and still give him freedom to drop into areas in and around the opposing penalty box.

Injury Concerns and Tactical Adjustments

Though the injury record of the former Wolves marksmen is a worry, that is also the case for many of the team and could be marginalized with less explosive wide running. A move away from those wide areas and a permanent role through the middle would surely decrease the chance of injuries, as well as pit the clubs best natural finisher into key goalscoring areas. If I were to select my own preferred central attacker, I would absolutely want the Portuguese man in that role, with his Uruguayan teammate acting as a rotation piece to allow a different variation.

Future Prospects

The intricacies of the position would need time to develop for the enigmatic 24-year-old, therefore, a more experienced and capable starter of Diogo Jota could allow both tactical training and on pitch methodology, to be fully integrated into certain player. I expect Luis Díaz to be sold on next month and am hopeful that a creative wide man like Michael Olise is signed. This would allow the Crystal Palace man and Harvey Elliott to operate from the right, whereas Cody Gakpo and Dominik Szoboszlai to cover the altered left wind position.


In behind the front man could then see the Egyptian King emerge into a new role as goal getter and provider, with relaxed interchange of the three behind the sole striker. That sole striker should be Diogo Jota next term, with a chance to finally be the main man.


Steven Smith

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