Richard Buxton: Jota is Liverpool’s greatest catalyst

Richard Buxton: Jota is Liverpool’s greatest catalyst

5/4/2021 5:00:00 AM

Richard Buxton: Jota is Liverpool’s greatest catalyst

Diogo Jota is rapidly debunking the myth behind Liverpool's biggest loss this season. The narrative surrounding Virgil van Dijk's injury-enforced absence has become so intertwined with the English Premier League champions' hard-luck story. Supporters lament his...

Inside three minutes of his introduction at the Emirates Stadium, Jota helped transform the visitors' profligate period of dominance into something tangible and even familiar.Liverpool last exuded such confidence and instinct in the EPL during a pre-Christmas 7-0 dismantling of Crystal Palace, ironically 10 days into their £41 million (S$76.3m) summer signing's extensive lay-off after succumbing to injury in a needless fashion.

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Klopp's single-mindedness in achieving targets came at a cost as Jota missed just shy of three months with knee ligament damage sustained in a Champions League dead rubber.In his absence, both in the starting line-up and as a highly effective substitute, Liverpool failed to make opposition nets bulge in six of 17 domestic games. Without him alongside, an alarming tally of 26 points were lost from a possible 45.

For all the brilliance posed by a trident of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, Jota's ability to unlock defences sets him apart from an illustrious collective which has been guilty of falling short on more than one occasion this term alone.

MIDAS TOUCHTime spent on the sidelines clearly has done little to dampen the 24-year-old's innate sense for racking up the goals, too, with a brace against the north London side taking his combined tally for club and country since returning to six in his last four appearances.

Recapturing that Midas touch could not have arrived at a more opportune moment ahead of a Champions League quarter-final, first leg with Real Madrid on Wednesday morning (Singapore time).Salah's unsubtle eyelash-fluttering in the Bernabeu's direction has made the last-eight outing in the Spanish capital a potential audition for the Egyptian who is just one goal behind Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane in the race for the EPL's Golden Boot.

All eyes will be on Salah from the second he steps out inside Los Blancos' Valdebebas training complex on the back of another prolific campaign as well as for his rare if largely unspectacular interviews with two of the city's leading sports newspapers.

It also allows Jota to fly under the radar, where he has been at his most devastating.Few expected him to disrupt the formidable axis of Salah, Mane and Firmino so soon, only for talk about an inevitable changing of the guard to accelerate with the latter prematurely deemed to have served his purpose after five years at Anfield.

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Only time will tell whether Klopp sees the benefits of persevering with a forward who has amassed just half of Jota's current 12-goal tally despite playing 15 games more.The one certainty is Liverpool's greatest catalyst is not sitting in the treatment room.

Arsenal manager Arteta 'in shock', apologises after loss to LiverpoolPHOTO: AFPArsenal manager Mikel Arteta admitted he was"in shock" after his side were outclassed in a 3-0 defeat by Liverpool in the English Premier League yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Arteta's side barely laid a glove on the visitors and were undone by two second-half goals by Diogo Jota and one by Mohamed Salah, although the margin of defeat could have been bigger.It left Arsenal down in ninth spot and Arteta with much to ponder after his 50th league game in charge produced a display he described as one of the worst in his tenure.

"We completely deserved to lose the game. They were better in every department and deserved to win the game with the margin they had, or even more," the Spaniard said."I accept responsibility for the way we played today. It is my fault. I have to set the team up to perform in a different way. At the moment, I am in shock.

WIN PERCENTAGE"I didn't expect that because of the way the team trained."Arteta's win percentage in the league from his first 50 games in charge is only 42 per cent, compared to his predecessor Unai Emery's 49 per cent from his 51 games at the helm.

While Arsenal have improved defensively under Arteta, the attacking flair they were once known for has been replaced by a cautious and often timid approach that was painfully evident against Liverpool."I don't know if it was the worst, but probably one of the worst," Arteta said of the performance at the Emirates Stadium.

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"We gave every ball away, we could not put three passes together. There were too many simple things not done right. The basics weren't there today."We want to apologise to our people and our fans. This is nowhere near what we want and we have to do better."

Arteta will have to plot a way forward without defender David Luiz, who missed this match and faces a spell on the sidelines after undergoing a knee surgery.Fullback Kieran Tierney, who was forced off with a knee problem just before half-time against the Reds, is a doubt for their Europa League quarter-final, first leg against Slavia Prague on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp praised right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold for showing his class, a day after admitting his surprise at the 22-year-old's recent omission from the England squad.Alexander-Arnold created the first goal for Jota and had a hand in the Portuguese forward's second.

"We scored these wonderful goals and Trent showed his class, again," Klopp said."I don't want to make another discussion about Trent or stuff like that. I said it was Gareth (Southgate's) decision. He is blessed with the choice he has in that position especially, but Trent is in a good shape."

Klopp's side are looking more like their old selves with a dominant display. The Reds are in sixth place, two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, but Klopp maintained that their hopes of a top-four finish are out of their control. Read more: The New Paper »

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