Firmino vs Jota: Should Liverpool Drop The Brazilian Forward?
Liverpool’s defence of their first ever Premier League title is shaping up pretty well as Saturday's 2-1 win at home to West Ham was their fifth victory in seven games and saw them move two points clear at the top of the table.
They have won all four games since losing key defender Virgil van Dijk when some pundits thought the Dutchman's absence would derail the Reds.
It's not been all plain sailing though as, defensively, Jurgen Klopp's are still leaking goals. They have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five league games, but it's their attack they have to thank for moving them to first place.
Saturday's win was the ninth successive league game in which the Reds have found their opponents' net twice or more. Last season's title was claimed with the terrific trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino scoring the goals.
This season they have added a fourth dimension to their attack in the form of Diogo Jota from Wolves.
Liverpool's Premier League Goals Per Minute Records
|Player||Minutes Played When Available||Goal Ratio|
|Jota||215 of 450 (47.7%)||1 every 71.6 minutes|
|Salah||629 of 630 (99.8%)||1 every 89.8 minutes|
|Mane||530 of 540 (98.1%)||1 every 132.5 minutes|
|Firmino||564 of 630 (89.5%)||1 every 564 minutes|
Jota, who scored seven goals in 34 league games for the Molineux side last season, cost £41million, but he already looks good value for that fee with an excellent start to his career at Anfield.
Three goals in his first five league games is proof that the Portugal international has not been burdened with the big money transfer.
His performances so far are giving Klopp the kind of headache every football manager wants – which of his four star strikers to leave on the bench.
Having four top quality forwards was seen as the blueprint for success ever since Manchester United won the 'Treble' in 1999 with Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scoring regularly for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
Solskjaer often found himself starting on the bench, waiting for opportunities, and when they came his way, he took them.
Famously, in a Premier League game at Nottingham Forest, Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were both on hat-tricks when Yorke was replaced by Solskjaer with United leading 4-1. Solskjaer found the net four times in the 18 minutes he was on the pitch as United ran out 8-1 winners.
Liverpool thought they would have their own version of the fab four, but Divock Origi has failed to nail down a regular place in the side since joining the Reds in July 2014.
Xherdan Shaqiri was signed from Stoke for £13m ahead of the 2018/19 season, but he too has found it difficult to battle his way into Klopp's starting XI.
Takumi Minamino was supposed to be the final piece in the jigsaw, but with no league goals in his 14 appearances since joining from RB Salzburg last season, the Japan international looks set to continue as a bit-part player.
Jota seems to be the forward Liverpool have been looking for but, like any player, he has to earn his place in the team.
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Liverpool Career League Goals After First 5 Games:
- Jota - 3
- Salah - 3
- Mane - 3
- Firmino - 0
Two of the three league goals Jota has scored for Liverpool have been scored when he has come off the bench, including Saturday's winner against the Hammers.
It was the second successive weekend in which Jota turned out to be the match-winner for Klopp who now has to decide whether to give the 23-year-old an extended run of games as a starter.
If Jota is to be rewarded for scoring in his last three games, whose place do he take? It's difficult to see Salah being dropped after scoring seven times in seven games, although three of those have been penalties.
Salah has played all but one of the 630 minutes of league action for Liverpool so far this campaign.
It would be just as harsh for Mane to miss out after scoring four times in the six league games he has featured in.
So that leaves Firmino, who has not completed a league game since the season opening win against Leeds. The Brazilian's productivity has dipped in recent seasons and his place in the side could be in doubt more so than the others.
Klopp has the option to start all four players, which he did at Sheffield United for the one and only time this season, but the manager went back to three up front for Saturday's game against West Ham.
Salah, Firmino and Mane all started, but Firmino made way for Jota with 20 minutes remaining during which time Jota won the game for the Reds. All four players will get plenty of opportunities to impress their manager with fixtures coming thick and fast in the domestic league and in Europe.
Liverpool's Starting XI in 2020/21 Premier League
|Combination||No. of Games||Results|
|Salah, Firmino, Mane||5||WWWDW|
|Salah, Firmino, Jota||1||L|
|Salah, Firmino, Mane, Jota||1||W|
In their Champions League opener against Ajax, it was the old guard of Salah, Firmino and Mane that started the 1-0 win in Amsterdam. All three were replaced with half-an-hour to play with Jota one of the replacements.
A week later against Midtjylland, Jota got to start alongside Shaqiri, Minamino and Origi, with Jota finding the net before he was replaced by Firmino with nine minutes to play.
Klopp's team selection this week will reveal a lot as the Reds travel to Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday night before a trip to Manchester City on Sunday with three league points up for grabs.
If Jota continues to find the net, it would be hard and harsh to leave him on the bench, but a return to form for Firmino would certainly help the Brazilian's cause to keep him in the team.
According to BetVictor’s anytime goalscorer odds, Jota is more likely to score against Atalanta (13/10) than Firmino (11/5), although it’s true that the Brazilian’s game has never been about his goals.
Whatever he decides, it’s a nice quandary Klopp finds himself in as he and his team look to defend their Premier League title and look to be crowned champions of Europe for a seventh time.
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