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Liverpool fans will have their first chance to praise last season’s champions when the Wolves visit on Sunday, and Diogo Jota may have to take a back seat briefly for the first time since arriving at Anfield.
A crowd of 2,000 is expected in the first weekend since March that fans were able to enter the Premier League grounds, with Liverpool taking the title during the pandemic’s lockdown months, ending the a wait of 30 years.
It means those players who led Jurgen Klopp’s team to glory will be the focus of attention for many, but Jota has had such an impact since arriving to strengthen the ranks that he is unlikely to be unappreciated.
With the Wolves being his old club, the night’s clash will also be a special occasion for the Portuguese forward, who has had a dazzling impact in his short time at Liverpool.
Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 4, 2020
Live and let Diogo
With an average goal every 96.8 minutes in the Premier League (five in 484 minutes), Jota cannot be accused of being left behind in his career at Anfield.
He has nine goals in 15 appearances across all competitions, and only three players have gotten off to quicker starts with the Reds in the same span of games: Robbie Fowler (12 goals), Daniel Sturridge (11) and Cyril Done (10), a Postwar poacher who later played in Tranmere and Port Vale.
Of the players who will be shown on Sunday, Jota has the best goals per minute record in the top flight this season, although his teammate Mohamed Salah (97.88) runs it close.
The Wolves have no one to touch those numbers, with their top scorer Raúl Jiménez (four league goals to one every 206 minutes) ruled out of the trip following the serious head injury he suffered last week in the win over Arsenal.
Jota only scored one goal every 328 minutes last season with Wolves in the Premier League, making these early-season efforts for Liverpool even more eye-catching.
You are already the first player in club history to score in each of your first four league games at home, could you extend that to five?
Only three players have scored in their first five home games for a specific club in the Premier League, with Jota looking to follow Jermain Defoe for Portsmouth (five games in a row), and Newcastle United’s pairing of Les Ferdinand (six games) and the notable Alan Shearer (15 home games in a row).
What to bring!
Opta defines a carry as any movement of the ball by a player who is more than five meters from where he received the ball.
Jota brings value in this important area, but these are the early days of his Liverpool career and his impact may be more recognizable later in the campaign.
He has had 78 carries so far, which is exactly the same number as Roberto Firmino, his apparent main rival for a regular start.
Firmino has played 319 more minutes than Jota in the Premier League, however, and averaged just 8.7 carries per 90 minutes, against Jota’s 14.5, which is a 0.2 increase in his number with the Wolves last season.
Sadio Mane manages an average of 15.8 carries per 90 minutes, while Salah produces 13.4 carries in the same span of time.
Jota’s 90-minute carrying distance is 186.6 meters, compared to 199.2 with the Wolves in 2019-20, and his 90-minute upfield carrying progress has dropped from 149.8 meters in the Last season at 109.5 meters in Klopp’s team, but that difference may be due to an adjustment in his role and responsibilities.
Liverpool’s top three ball carriers this season, in terms of their 90-minute average, have been Jordan Henderson (20.8), Joe Gomez (18.6) and Andrew Robertson (17.6).
4 – Diogo Jota is the first player in Liverpool history to score in each of his first four top-flight league appearances with the club. Fantastic. pic.twitter.com/AcQ1za4mYE
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 22, 2020
Notice of a Liverpool weakness?
What might be remarkable, looking at Liverpool’s top four attackers, is who has been earning the most headers this season.
Mane leaves Jota behind in this department, winning 15 of 28 aerial battles compared to four of 22 for the new kid, who stands an inch taller than the 5-foot-9 Senegalese striker. Mane won just 41 of 116 such games last season, suggesting he has found an extra spring in the early months of this season.
It’s not an area where Liverpool’s current group of forwards excels, with Firmino (winning three of 27) and Salah (two of 16) also easily driving in the air.
The random play from left to right of Jota
Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo used Jota primarily as a forward on the left side, and his contact map from last season compared to this shows how his role at Liverpool has been different.
In 2019-20, Jota had 44.74 percent of his touches in the left third of the Wolves’ front half, and just 7.65 percent in the right third of the opposition half.
Given he’s featured in front-line roles for Klopp thus far, it’s no wonder to see Jota seeing a lot of action in areas of the field he rarely visited in Lobos black and gold.
In this legislature he has had 34.41 percent of touches in that same left channel in the opposite field, plus 19.89 percent in the corresponding corridor on the right.
– Jordan Henderson (@JHenderson) December 4, 2020
Wolves at the door
Despite all the excitement for the fans’ return to Anfield, the away team should not be underestimated.
The Wolves are enjoying their best start to the season in the Premier League, having accumulated 17 points in 10 games so far.
Nuno has led his team to consecutive finals in seventh place, and the valiant victory at Arsenal last week, when the team focused despite losing Jiménez to injury early on, showed that they have great spirit to accompany a undeniable quality.