SOUVENIR PROGRAMME

Jurgen Klopp explains why Diogo Jota didn’t start vs. Arsenal

Jurgen Klopp has admitted that Liverpool “have to be careful” with Diogo Jota after his return from injury, explaining why he didn’t start against Arsenal.

Jota is now three games back from a month out with a hamstring injury, but all of those have seen the Portuguese come off the bench.

It was something of a surprise to see him named among the substitutes for the FA Cup third-round trip to Arsenal on Sunday, with Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez preferred on the left and up front respectively.

But speaking to LFCTV after the game, Klopp revealed that, like Alexis Mac Allister, the No. 20 is still being eased back into action.

“We have to be careful with Diogo, that’s clear,” the manager said.

“I think shape-wise, of course he could have started, no doubt about that. But we thought it made absolute sense that he has half an hour or whatever if we play three days again.

“Same with Macca; Macca played a really good game, but then 60 minutes, you see him [tiring] – yeah, that’s it, independent of the result.”

It is clearly working, of course, with Jota scoring one and assisting two in his three cameos since returning, as well as winning the penalty Mo Salah scored against Newcastle.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 7, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota (R) is challenged by Arsenal's William Saliba during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp’s comments suggest that Jota will make his first start back when Fulham arrive at Anfield for the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.

On the evidence of Liverpool’s eventual 2-0 win at Arsenal, he could do so flanked by Nunez on the left and Diaz on the right.

The manager was glowing in his praise of the trio after a much-needed tweak during the second half at the Emirates, having seen his initial forward line of Diaz (left wing), Harvey Elliott (right wing) and Nunez (striker) fall flat.

“Diogo obviously was involved in pretty much everything. Offensively and defensively, he was there,” Klopp continued.

“So the three up front then in the second half, the defensive work, they smashed it, it was outstanding.

“Darwin all of a sudden was a super threat on the wing, these kinds of things. It was just good, I liked it a lot.”