Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp faces unfamiliar problem thanks to ‘magic’ Diogo Jota
In pictures: Liverpool v Burnley
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Liverpool’s opening two matches of the 2021/22 Premier League season have been notable for a possible changing of the guard among Jurgen Klopp’s side. The Reds have beaten Norwich 3-0 and Burnley 2-0 so far with their squad looking in good shape for a title challenge, having put the difficulties of last season behind them.
With Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip back together in central defence, Klopp’s side has looked solid.
Kostas Tsimikas has shown himself to be an able deputy to Andy Robertson at left-back, while the rotation in midfield saw the injured James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced by Jordan Henderson and Harvey Elliott against Burnley.
But while there have been changes in midfield, there has been a consistency to Liverpool’s front three.
For so many years the Reds’ attacking trio picked themselves. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have formed one of the world’s most exciting and consistent attacks.
So often they have dovetailed perfectly, showing a brilliant understanding of each others’ games, interchanging and sharing the goals and assists out nicely.
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Salah has always been the biggest goal threat, cutting inside from the right-hand side onto his left foot.
Mane has the biggest threat in behind, using his clever movement and raw pace to great effect.
Firmino is the link man, unselfishly knitting together play by coming short and leaving space for his two team-mates to exploit.
Yet the start of the season has seen the Brazilian lose his place in Liverpool’s side, with Diogo Jota now Klopp’s first choice in the central striking position – and with good reason.
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The Portuguese forward banged in Liverpool’s opening goal against Norwich, pouncing on an errant touch from Salah to beat Tim Krul.
And he repeated the trick against Burnley, getting across James Tarkowski and Ben Mee to flick Tsimikas’ cross into the bottom corner with his head. For such a diminutive man, Jota is fantastic in the air.
“Yeah, he has, he has got the magic touch,” Liverpool captain Henderson told BT Sport post-match.
“Around the box he’s lively and he manages to make the right runs. And when he gets in front of goal he normally scores.
“He has been outstanding since he has come back and hopefully he can continue.”
In this form, there is no way Klopp is going to revert back to the favoured combination of old.
Firmino came off the bench to score against Norwich, tapping in from Salah’s cross, but there is a feeling his output has been on the decline for some time.
The 29-year-old scored three goals in his final four games at the end of last season – yet those strikes broke a 15-match drought which stretched from January and May.
Firmino still returned nine goals and seven assists in 36 Premier League appearances last season, but Jota, who is five years his junior, appeared to be a brighter spark.
Had he not sustained that fateful injury in a Champions League dead rubber against FC Midtjylland in December, which kept him out for 19 matches, Jota might have usurped Firmino earlier.
Regardless, after a decent pre-season and strong start to the campaign proper, Jota is Liverpool’s main man now.
That is a good problem to have for Klopp, who now has to show his man-management skills to keep everyone happy.
Liverpool face Chelsea next weekend at Anfield before a two-week international break. Once past that the fixtures begin to come thick and fast – that is when Klopp will need every member of his squad to contribute.
Last season’s injury crisis has taught the Liverpool manager many things. Jota’s form gives him a chance to put them into practice.
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