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Diogo Jota can be an invaluable weapon for Arne Slot – but he needs to stay fit!

Diogo Jota‘s 2023/24 season was plagued by injury, robbing Liverpool of one of their most lethal forwards at a time when goals were in short supply – a trend that can’t continue.

Of the Reds’ 58 games in Jurgen Klopp‘s final season, the 27-year-old was unavailable for 23 of them due to three different injury absences – which accounts for 39.6 percent of the season.

Availability is a player’s greatest asset, but it is in short supply when it concerns Jota – who otherwise is widely considered a first-choice member of the front line, when fit.

A deadly finisher and an invaluable poacher, but his injuries became too big of a headline in 2023/24.

Diogo Jota, 2023/24

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. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 19 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 13
Unused sub: 2
Goals: 15
Assists: 4
Overall Season Rating: 7.42

 

Stuck on the sidelines

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota is treated for an injury during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

During Liverpool’s rough patch, when we were crying out for a player to finish any of the chances created, Jota’s name constantly came to the fore.

His stock rose despite being stuck on the sidelines, a nod to his capabilities that have often seen him drag the Reds back into a match or seal a result entirely.

It is what made his injury absences all the more frustrating. Of the 23 games he missed, Liverpool lost or drew 10 of them, and only once was there more than a goal in it.

The collateral ligament tear in his right knee against Brentford was unlucky, a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it kept him out for 11 games.

Earlier in the season, he missed eight matches due to a muscle injury and then a further four in the run-in with a hip complaint – which came during the process of scoring the sealer at Fulham.

And we won’t talk about his ridiculous one-game suspension after two yellow cards at Tottenham!

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 25, 2023: Liverpool's Diogo Jota is treated for an injury during the FA Premier League match between Manchester City FC and Liverpool FC at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The longest run in the side he could, therefore, muster was 11 games – between his muscle injury and the incident at Brentford – and he started seven of them.

Klopp was consistently a preacher for the importance of rhythm, and while Jota’s end tally of games missed was 23, you can safely say he wasn’t in top form for a considerable more.

He explained this himself in January: “Although I could be fresh there is that rhythm that you obviously lose when you are out for a period of time.”

Jota did still offer a valuable contribution on the scoreboard, but it will always be a case of ‘what if’ when it comes to how Liverpool’s season would have turned out had he remained fit throughout.

 

The lethal poacher

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)

The Reds do not possess another poacher or finisher in the same bracket as Jota, he was the only forward in the squad who overperformed their xG this season.

In all competitions, he finished with 15 goals and four assists – and of his strikes, four were openers and seven were the final goal of the game to make sure of the result.

He can drift in and out of games, but when moments arise to have an influence, he readily takes them and has a significant part to play in the end result.

To further that point, despite only playing 34 percent of the minutes in the Premier League this campaign, he accounted for 15 percent of the Reds’ goal involvements – only Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez had a greater percentage.

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)

He is an invaluable weapon to have within the ranks – when you can use him – and you sense Liverpool’s season would have panned out differently had he been fit throughout.

In the away games at Man United, the visit of Man City and the trips to Everton and West Ham, they’re only five examples, but Liverpool won none as Jota watched on from the treatment room.

Counter-attacks were squandered and chances went begging time and time again, but without their poacher, nothing stuck, and the Reds became guilty of over-playing the ball in the box.

The Portuguese forward offers a different profile to that of the team’s other forwards, and he helps the light of others to shine brighter, and Arne Slot will hope to be able to constantly call on his big-time player.

 

The next challenge

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 14, 2024: Liverpool's substitute Diogo Jota replaces Darwin Núñez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. Crystal Palace won 1-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The change of manager will create a lot of intrigue for players throughout the squad, though you sense Jota can play a big role under Slot.

The Dutchman prefers a 4-2-3-1 system, and the 27-year-old is flexible enough to play in a number of those forward positions, either as the central player or on the wings – where Slot prefers pace.

His flexibility will be key, but so will his availability.

Jota played the 19th-most minutes across the squad in 2023/24, and with a Euros campaign with Portugal to come, the hope will be that he can build a strong foundation this summer and into pre-season.

He needs confidence in his body and Liverpool need to know they can rely on Jota to be more available than not in 2024/25.


Best moment: Two goals and an assist vs. Bournemouth

Worst moment: Three different injury absences totalling 23 games on the sidelines.

Role next season: If fit, a first-choice member in the forward line.