LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 31, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Diogo Jota’s stock rises despite 11-game absence – pressure for the poacher?

Diogo Jota‘s status in this Liverpool side has risen in recent weeks despite not playing the last 11 matches, and while his return can’t come soon enough, should expectations be managed?

It is not often that a player’s stock rises without even having to grace the pitch, but that is what we’re currently seeing with Jota.

In the 11 games since his knee injury at Brentford, Liverpool have failed to win only three games – both against Manchester clubs.

But it has resulted in a draw against title rivals Man City and a needless exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Man United, who then held us to a costly league draw.

What those matches have in common is the Reds’ overwhelming shots on goal – 72 in total across the three abovementioned fixtures, but there was a return of just six goals.

A poacher and a clinical finisher was missing, Jota was missing.


The missing piece

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 26, 2023: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates scoring the second goal in the 90th minute during the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Across any of those three games, you could find a moment when you think if Liverpool just had their No. 20 on the end of some of their chances we would be looking at three different results.

Creating openings and opportunities is clearly not an issue for Jurgen Klopp‘s side, as per Fotmob they rank top for expected goals (71.9) and big chances (105) in the Premier League.

But they have also missed the most big chances (62) of any side.

It is why the desire to see Jota return from injury is growing bigger by the day, he has an incredible knack for striking when his side need him the most.

He can easily drift out of games and sometimes you are left wondering if he is even on the pitch at all, but his game intelligence ensures you can never rule him out of having an influence.

Of his 14 goals to date, four have been the openers for Liverpool and he is competent finishing on either foot – he has converted six on his left this campaign and six on his right.

Liverpool currently find themselves overplaying in the box when a player like Jota would opt to let fly, and if you dropped him into any one of our recently squandered counter-attacks you sense it would have ended a lot differently.

The painful examples pictured above (two vs. Man United and one vs. Arsenal) were all five-on-two counter-attacks and in all three Jota was absent through injury and no goals were scored.

The 27-year-old offers a different profile in the front three and with Darwin Nunez not making a mark against the big hitters and Mohamed Salah struggling for all-round form, Jota’s return can’t come soon enough.


Pressure on or off?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 24, 2023: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Inevitably, though, with a Premier League title on the line and a Europa League triumph in sight, expectations are rising for the return of the Portuguese.

It creates a sense of pressure to immediately perform when there is no room to gradually settle back into the side, as Liverpool have no margin for error in the run-in.

Jota has earned those expectations by having an influence in the big moments, and one can only hope he thrives under the weight of it all and, in turn, helps alleviate the strain on the other forwards.

Klopp having all five senior attackers at his disposal increases Liverpool’s unpredictability during games and from match to match, and it helps with much-needed rotation.

Goals from LFC’s forwards this season

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 31, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota (L) celebrates with team-mate Luis Díaz after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool need their poacher back, and after 11 games out equated to more than seven weeks on the sidelines, that wish is within reach as he has now returned to training.

While a return to competitive action may still be a couple of games away, the 27-year-old’s presence will be a huge boost for his team-mates and Liverpool’s ambitions this season.

He may be billed as a saviour, if you will, by some, but simply by being his poacher-self, he may also allow the light of others to shine that little bit brighter.

The big-time players rise in the big moments and the final run of games do not get any bigger!