The Diogo Jota Conundrum

The main body of this article was taken from a longer Próxima Jornada piece entitled Portugal: A Goalscoring Problem? This can be found by clicking the green link.

Diogo Jota is a relative newcomer to the Seleção set-up, but the 23-year-old is a player that many believe could be a valuable asset to Portugal in the coming years. Part of the Nations League squad that lifted the trophy, his first playing minutes came in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign against Lithuania and Luxembourg.

This season in the Premier League for Wolves, he has been somewhat inconsistent to say the least. 9 goals in 12 Europa League games (Qualifying and Proper) is a far cry from his 6 goals in 25 Premier League games.

After a slow start to the season for both Wolves and Diogo, which saw Wolves go 6 consecutive league matches without a win, Jota was moved from centre forward to a left-wing role and Wolves’ overall performance improved. His positional change directly correlates with Wolves going from no win in 6 to a run of just 1 league defeat in 11 games. This transition from playing in a 2 with Raul Jiminéz to playing in a front 3, allowed the mercurial Adama Traoré to operate further up the pitch, going from wing-back to winger. For all of Wolves’ improvement since moving to a 5-2-3, Diogo’s own numbers dipped. In the 13 league games he played before getting injured, he played 11 of them on the left side of a this front 3, during this time he scored only twice, contributing 0 assists. He received a knock in the 2-1 defeat to Watford and then spent nearly a month on the sidelines, missing 2 Premier League and 2 FA Cup matches. His return to the side saw him again playing predominantly as a left-sided attacker. That was until the clash with Norwich. For this game, Nuno reverted to a 3-5-2, with Jota taking up a more central role alongside Jiminéz, with Adama dropped to the bench, the result? Jota scored 2 of his sides 3 goals and was voted Man of the Match. 

The previous season (18/19) was statistically Jota’s best of any top-flight campaign with 9 goals and 5 assists but just like the 19/20 campaign, it didn’t start this way. Diogo played as a left-winger for the first 10 league matches of the season and didn’t score a single goal or make an assist. Nuno then began deploying Jota primarily as a forward in a 2 with Jiminéz. He then went on to score 9 goals and contribute 5 assists in 20 matches. Whilst it’s not complex to work out that Jota’s potency improves tenfold when he is played centrally, (the statistics clearly show that), an issue for Jota comes in the form of positional sacrifice. Nuno clearly sees that the best and most viable way of getting both Diogo and the at times unplayable Adamá in the side is by deploying Jota as a winger. On the one hand, this is detrimental to Jota’s overall numbers (G+A) but this way Adamá is also able to play and make an impact, not to mention Wolves’ team performance usually improves with a front three. 

The solution? Diogo Jota will simply have to continue his ongoing work of becoming more productive from a wider position in terms of goals and assists. One of the biggest complaints from the Wolves faithful of Diogo, when he is out-wide is his decision making, keeping hold of the ball too long and sometimes overcomplicating play. These 3 things will surely improve over time, Diogo is still only 23 and in his second season in the Premier League. Playing out wide requires, for the most part, a wholly different skill-set to playing as a striker. It will take time for his productivity to improve from these wider positions. 

Simply put, the longer he plays out wide, the better at it he should get.

Wolves and FC Porto supporters know especially, that the talent is quite abundantly there, he has showcased it enough for all to see. The aim now for Diogo is to keep improving and challenge for that Seleção spot, the blessing in disguise for the diminutive magician is the postponement of the Euros. He now has until 2021 to really hone his craft and claim a spot on that plane.

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