Through Liverpool’s pursuit of Timo Werner, it became clear Jurgen Klopp wanted a new striker added to his squad over the summer. Even when the Anfield club missed out on the German international, who signed for Chelsea instead, they stayed in the market for a forward, moving quickly to secure Diogo Jota in a £41 million deal from Wolves.
Of course, Liverpool already boast one of the most potent frontlines in the European game. Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have become giants on Merseyside, firing the Reds to Premier League and Champions League glory with a combined 126 goals over the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons.
However, behind those three attackers, Liverpool lacked depth. That’s what Jota was signed to provide, and the Portuguese international has already broadened Klopp’s options in this regard. Jota’s strike against FC Midtjylland brought his tally to three goals in just six appearances for the Reds, with many key figures rotated out of the side for Tuesday’s Champions League fixture.
Jota has settled remarkably quickly into his new surroundings, giving Liverpool exactly what they were looking for. But what if he can give them more than what they are looking for? At what point does the 23-year-old become more than just a depth option? Could he soon be a bona fide first team figure for the champions?
Klopp’s team selection for Saturday’s Premier League fixture at home to Sheffield United suggested he is already thinking of ways to fit Jota into his strongest XI. 4-3-3 has been the ideal shape for Liverpool over the last two to three seasons, but Klopp deployed his players in a 4-2-3-1 shape against the Blades, with Salah as the centre forward, Firmino behind him, Mane on the left and, most intriguingly, Jota on the right.
Of course, this was far from the first time Klopp has used this formation, and there were other reasons than just Jota’s good form for the Liverpool manager to use it again - it allows Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnladum to play as a midfield two with Fabinho filling in for Virgil van Dijk at centre back - but the sight of the Portuguese in the same team as Firmino, Mane and Salah was cause for thought.
“He's still adapting to us, a lot of things are not natural to him that we do,” Klopp said after Jota’s goalscoring performance in the 2-1 win over Sheffield United. “But that's because Wolves play differently. A lot of things he did for Wolves are what we want him to do. That he is that close already is just a sign of how good a player he is, and if he stays fit, he is 23, the future is bright. We will need his quality, I'm happy with how he's settled in.”
Indeed, Klopp is right to be bullish on the potential of his new signing. Jota has improved with every season he has played in the Premier League and the signs are that with better players around him at Liverpool that trend will continue.
The Premier League champions should be wary of expecting too much too soon from Jota, though, even in light of his recent form. Xherdan Shaqiri, much like the Portuguese forward, enjoyed a good start to life at Liverpool having been signed to provide squad depth. His £13.5 million arrival from Stoke City was hailed as a bargain only for the Swiss to quickly fade and become a peripheral figure. Last season saw Shaqiri start just two Premier League games.
Jota is a better player than Shaqiri ever was, though, and has joined Liverpool at a different stage of his career. Not one of Firmino, Mane or Salah was considered world class until Klopp began to mould them on Merseyside and in Jota the German might just have another superstar to shape. Finding a place for him might prove to be the tricky bit.