Go back to the start of the 2021-22 season, and most fans and pundits were hailing Diogo Jota. The Portuguese had arrived at Anfield at the end of the summer of 2021, and was seen as an exciting addition. Finally adding more depth to the elite but rather thin attacking line that Liverpool employed, Jota was supposed to be the answer to a long-asked question: what happens when one of the ‘big three’ were out?
Having enjoyed an excellent debut season in Liverpool, the Portuguese was expected to kick on in 2021-22. And in many ways, he has. A hugely impressive 23 goals and 6 assists in 55 games is a very impressive record indeed. Jota was also instrumental in helping the Reds through a sticky patch of form when Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, among others, represented their nations at the African Cup of Nations. Some of his goals were absolutely crucial, yet as Mane and co. returned to the team his form has dipped.
As often happens with forwards, Jota has seen his importance and his consistency fade since late February. Though still a crucial performer, as his goal against Manchester City in the league proved, Jota has been somewhat overshadowed in the second half of the season. The arrival of Luis Diaz and his incredible impact has also played a big role in taking the Reds that next step further forward.
For Jota, though, some believe that he might be more suited to being a ‘supersub’ as opposed to starting each match. Yet do the numbers back up this oft-repeated assertion?
Following a pretty poor match against Villarreal where he was hooked at half-time for Diaz, Jota has been dismissed by some in the press as a supersub only. Is that fair?
Is Jota impactful off the bench?
If you look at the games that Jota has played this year, he has played all across the forward line. He has most often played on the left side of the attack or through the middle. In those two roles, he has contributed 22 of his goals this season. He has played only two games from the right hand side of attack, and to his credit has scored twice in those two games.
However, as a striker through the middle or a forward on the left, he does his best work. He also produces most or all of his assists from the left. As a substitute, though, Jota has produced a solitary goal and a single assist in twelve bench appearances.
So, if Liverpool want to keep getting the best out of their Portuguese sniper, they might need to start him. His appearances from the bench have comfortably been his worst showings across the season. Any idea that Liverpool should stop starting Jota, then, is not borne out in the numbers. Others, especially Diaz, have shown they can be a livewire off the bench – this year at least, Jota has not.