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The simple truth at the root of everything that is going wrong with Liverpool this season is that they are not scoring enough goals.
It may sound reductionist, and of course there is more to discuss: the defensive injury situation has gone beyond a joke, the midfield lacks balance and urgency, and there is a crisis of confidence across the field.
The bottom line, however, is that they have hit the back of the net just eight times in nine Premier League games since the turn of the year. And six of them got victories over Tottenham and West Ham, which ultimately turned out to be a false dawn.
It’s an issue that was addressed by Georginio Wijnaldum in a series of tweets following Anfield’s painful loss to Everton, and one that Jurgen Klopp admits has him scratching his head.
What can What do you do when your team creates opportunities but doesn’t take advantage of them?
Well, you can hope and pray for the return of a certain Portuguese forward who scored nine goals in just ten starts before getting injured in December.
Liverpool expect Diogo Jota to return to training this week, and the Wolves’ summer signing must be eager to get back on the pitch and help his team put their scoring woes behind them.
He only had around ten weeks to make his presence felt at Anfield before a knee problem put him on the sidelines, but it made such an impact that Klopp changed his proven form just to fit him in. He was the player who could finally offer a genuine alternative to Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, and it is unlikely to be a coincidence that, in his absence, the goals of two of those three have dried up.
The form of Mane and Firmino in recent weeks has been a matter of particular concern. You can’t judge forwards solely on goals, of course, but two goals between them since the turn of the year are sounding the alarm bells.
Whether it has been fatigue, motivation, confidence or just a direct drop in form is hard to pin down, but whatever the case may be, having Jota back in the picture gives Klopp a chance to act.
Their availability at the same time takes the pressure off the underperforming duo, and builds up another kind of pressure: suddenly someone else is prepared to take on the responsibility of scoring goals, but to do so, they will need a place on the team.
There have been calls for Klopp to try something different after falling to an unprecedented fourth home loss at the top, and that’s another reason he’ll be delighted to have Jota back on the scene.
His prowess adds an unpredictability – it gives Klopp the option to go 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, or even 4-2-4 in moments of desperation, and that could prove invaluable at a time when the opponents seem to have noticed Liverpool.
However, the most important thing is that Jota is just another player who can score goals. Much of the burden has fallen on Salah in recent weeks, so the return of a striker who was in top form in December gives the attack a much-needed injection of momentum.
Part of what has made the last few weeks so bleak has been the bored and sleepwalking state of Liverpool’s attacking options.
So while Jota isn’t going to save the season alone, his reappearance makes the light at the end of the tunnel a bit brighter.