The American Gerrard- A Lotta ‘Bout Jota

As the news of Liverpool signing Thiago Alcantara dominated social media and news sites, the LFC transfer flood gate exploded open again with rumors Liverpool were close to making their third first team signing of the summer. Liverpool have now signed Portuguese attacker Diogo Jota from Wolverhampton Wanderers for a fee in the region of $47 million.

It is my understanding that LFC right back Ki-Jana Hoever has gone to Wolves as part of the deal, offsetting an initial $13 million payment towards Jota’s fee. Including add-ons, Hoever’s fee could rise to $17 million. Michael Edwards, Liverpool’s trusted Transfer expert (and hostage negotiator), was able to arrange an initial payment of only 10% for Jota, with the rest coming in installments throughout Jota’s five-year contract with the Reds. Jota joins as Liverpool’s fourth most expensive player.

Some fans are questioning how Liverpool could pay $47 million for Jota while refusing to pay about the same price for Timo Werner.  The key is in the details.  R.B. Leipzig wanted all the money up front while Wolverhampton will accept a payment plan over 5 years. Also, Edwards adding Hoever in the deal made Wolves more willing to negotiate having just lost their first choice right back Doherty to Spurs.  (Ed.:  Additionally, word has it that Werner wanted to be the “main man” and not rotate among the other front three, which Jota seems happy to do.)

Jurgen Klopp and many of his backroom staff including assistant manager Pep Lijnders, have kept close watch over Jota’s development in recent seasons. Lijnders was actually very important during the scouting of Jota, using his contacts from Porto and Portugal to ascertain background information on Jota’s personality and interaction with coaches.

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Klopp is believed to be a long term admirer of Jota, pointing to his work rate, ability to press in the oppositions half, and tactical intelligence – all traits Klopp favors (Ed.: requires?) in his signings. Jota was concluded as a decent fit into Jurgen’s side having the right mentality, temperament, and determination to put on the famous red jersey.

Jota has signed to provide an exciting backup to – and competition for – the fabulous front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah. Jota is seen as a versatile attacker able to play as a center forward, secondary striker, on the wing or in advanced midfield roles. His favored position for Wolves was on the left wing, and he works well in attacking trios or even in a dual-forward formation.

He may have to compete with a number of players for a place on the bench at Liverpool depending on our remaining transfer activity but for the price I would imagine Klopp thinks highly of him. He could potentially step in ahead of a few players in the Liverpool pecking order including Origi and Minamino.

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This move seemed to come out of nowhere, similar to the Fabinho deal. We were linked with many attacking players this summer but Jota’s name has never come up. He was not someone many Liverpool fans (or pundits) considered before this week. As someone who follows transfer activity constantly, I even feel a little blindsided by this move.

I decided to do a little research on Jota to dig deeper into Liverpool’s decision to go after Jota. I have watched him play for Wolves a handful of times, but I still wanted to analyze what he might bring to Liverpool and why Klopp would sanction such a high fee (even though it’s over time) for a player who had only been linked with Liverpool recently.

I looked into some of the stats from Jota’s three seasons in England and found some discussion worthy results.

During his time at Wolves, Jota scored 44 goals in 131 appearances. Jota first came to Wolves on loan from Atletico Madrid in the season of 2017-2018. At the time Wolves were still playing in the Championship league.

Wolves made Jota’s deal permanent after an impressive first season in England, netting 17 league goals and providing five assists. He was Wolves top scorer on their way to Premier League promotion. That season, Jota recorded a decent passing accuracy rate completing 78% of all his passes.

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The following season, there were big expectations for Jota but things ended up a bit slow to start. Jota needed some time to adapt to the Premier League. He did eventually manage nine goals and provided five assists in 33 league appearances. His passing accuracy dropped slightly to 76% that season.

In the 2019-2020 season Jota made 34 league appearances scoring seven goals and providing one assist, but his passing rate rose to 80%. Wolves also competed in the Europa League where Jota made eight appearances while scoring six goals in the process.

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The vast majority of Jota’s goals scored over the last three seasons came from inside the box, with only one goal outside the box during that time. He tends to make sudden runs into the goal mouth to execute tap-in finishes. Demonstrating an astute tactical awareness, Jota often finds himself in the defender’s blind spot, awaiting the perfect moment to pounce. When receiving the ball in front of goal, his first touch can be deadly.

One of Jota’s least discussed attributes is his excellent first touch and anticipation. Jota has an above-average passing accuracy and amazing offensive tactical awareness, indicating he fits in with Liverpool’s quick give-and-go style of working the ball around when defensive teams sit back. While Jota is not quite as fast as someone like Mane or Salah, he does have a bit more pace then your average player, and seems to find the perfect timing to make opportunistic runs down the pitch.

Jota has been known to drop deeper to help his team in the build-up, similar to Roberto Firmino in his false 9 role. Jota can actually defend decently for an attacker; he likes to press and win the ball up the field. He is also able to initiate counter-attacks on his own – he can dribble with good acceleration, however, he rarely takes on multiple defenders, preferring instead to pass the ball and maintain possession.

In deeper areas, Jota is able to calmly control the ball and even protect it from larger opponents.  When pressed by multiple players, he is very composed in tight spaces. He can wriggle through defenders and find the right positions for tap-in goals – this potential to unlock defenses that “park the bus” is one of the reasons Liverpool like him.

Some of Jota’s more recent stats do not flatter his development, yet you could argue this last season he was distracted with European action.  Personally, I think he has a lot of potential under a manager like Jurgen Klopp, who is known to get the very best out of his players.

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Do not take my word for it – read what Klopp had to say about his new signing:

“He’s a player who gives us so many options to use him. He’s 23 years old, still far away from being kind of a finished article, so much potential. He has the speed, he can combine, can defend, can press. It makes it just more unpredictable and gives us real options for different systems because he can play pretty much all three positions up front in a 4-3-3, if we play with four midfielders he can play both wings So, these kinds of things. It’s just nice. And he has some natural things which we have in our game, like this desire and the greed and the direction. He is part of this unbelievable Portuguese generation in the moment, where they have really a lot of obviously quite skilled players. We saw the Portuguese team last time, it’s quite impressive. So, I’m really happy to have him here. And on top of that, a really good guy and really happy to be here.”

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Diogo Jota is actually the younger brother of Andre Silva who plays striker for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga; he followed in Silva’s footsteps getting involved with football when they were young. Jota initially impressed in Portugal, becoming the youngest player to score two goals in a match for any club in Portugal since Cristiano Ronaldo. In the 2015-16 season Jota scored 14 goals and provided 10 assists in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, making him the first player under the age of 19 to record more than 12 goals in a season. That season, he was voted the league’s young player of the year. Jota’s coaches described him as a football genius possessing an intellect and tactical understanding well beyond his age.

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Jota scored his first Champions League goal playing while on loan at Porto F.C. against Leicester City. He became Porto’s youngest Portuguese national team goal scorer at the age of 20. While playing for Porto Jota became close friends with future Wolves teammate Reuben Neves. It was Neves who first convinced him to join Wolves and come to England. Jota went on to be Wolves top scorer in his debut season, and was instrumental in their capture of the Championship trophy. Jota was then the first Wolves player to score a hat trick in the Premier League era.

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Jota will officially wear the number 20 recently vacated by Adam Lallana. According to Klopp Jota speaks perfect English despite playing with Wolves who have more Portuguese players then majority of the teams in the Portugal.

He enjoys playing FIFA and even defeated Liverpool fan favorite Trent Alexander-Arnold in this years ePremier League invitational final. Apparently Jota is a really decent FIFA player finishing 61st in world rankings and regularly winning all 30 Weekend league matches in FIFA Ultimate Team. For those unfamiliar with FIFA Ultimate Team winning 30 matches in the weekend league is quite a feat. Does Jota’s excellence at FIFA demonstrate a deeper understanding of the tactics and mechanics behind the beautiful game?

Perhaps Liverpool’s trusted transfer committee and Jurgen Klopp have uncovered another diamond in the rough. If nothing else we have saved him from ever wearing this monstrosity again.

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I’m Jordan Gerrard and as always I thank you for reading.

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