BREAKING: Jurgen Klopp handed perfect evidence as Liverpool duo signal changing of the guard
Liverpool secured a much-needed victory over Ajax on Tuesday night to move to second in Champions League Group A, and there were two players in particular that really stood out on the night
Jurgen Klopp was relieved to see his Liverpool side emerge with three points against Ajax
Liverpool put last week’s painful defeat to Napoli behind them with a 2-1 victory over Ajax at Anfield to move to second in group A in the Champions League.
It was Mohamed Salah who opened the scoring for the Reds before Mohammed Kudus scored an equaliser midway through the first half. Joel Matip bagged an 89th minute winner in front of the Kop though to secure a crucial victory for the Reds.
While he never got on the scoresheet himself, Diogo Jota received plenty of praise for his display. He played a key role in Salah’s opening goal as he slid the ball through for the Egyptian and is looking much closer to the player who impressed so much prior to his injury earlier in the year.
The Portugal international was a surprise starter for Jurgen Klopp, with many expecting either Roberto Firmino or Darwin Nunez to line up in his place. Yet Klopp praised the qualities of the 25-year-old pre-game, stating he boasted qualities similar to both of Liverpool ’s preferred central strikers.
“He combines qualities of Bobby and Darwin so that’s how it is so we need to defend on absolute top, top, top level and at the top as well,” said the German.
“Diogo hasn’t played for a long time, especially from the start, he was twice injured in a row, lack of rhythm clear but he’s looked good in the training sessions now which we try to use. That’s why we decided, it was not a difficult decision to be honest.”
Throughout his time at Anfield, Firmino has excelled when operating like an advanced pivot inside the attacking third for Liverpool, dropping in between the lines, linking play and creating spaces for others to exploit. He’s also excellent at leading the Liverpool press from the front. But Jota has definitely shown his own proficiency in these areas too.
He did so on numerous occasions on Tuesday night and last season, averaging 9.66 attacking Premier League pressures per 90, which was actually marginally more than Firmino’s average of 9.36. The two almost had identical averages in terms of shot-creating actions per 90 too – Jota 3.31, Firmino 3.36.
An edge Jota holds over Firmino, though, is his threat in front of goal, which would have been one of the reasons Klopp compared him to Nunez. Only Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah averaged more shots on target (1.25) last season. It was his threat that Rio Ferdinand praised when discussing the importance of Jota to the Liverpool attack on Tuesday night.
Speaking to BT Sport after Liverpool’s win, Ferdinand said: “Jota does really well, I think he’s been a big miss injury wise, he gives them that little something in the box, he can finish.”
Soccer Football – FA Cup – Final – Chelsea v Liverpool – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – May 14, 2022 Liverpool’s Kostas Tsimikas scores the winning penalty in the shoot-out Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra
One of Liverpool’s other standout performers on Tuesday night was Kostas Tsimikas, who started ahead of first-choice left-back Andy Robertson. The Scottish international missed the game through injury, and there’s no promise he’ll be reinstated to the starting lineup on his return, due to the level of Tsimikas’ displays.
Tsmikas is already a popular figure at the club and has been nicknamed the ‘Greek Scouser’ by the Kop. On Tuesday, he delivered the winning goal via his corner kick and finished the game having created five big chances – no player on the night created more.
Not only was he impressive going forward, but he also excelled on the defensive side of the game too. Liverpool players have been scrutinised in recent weeks, particularly for what has seemed to be a lack of desire in terms of running without the ball..TAP.TO.CONTINUE.READING
Tsmikas though was relentless all evening, making a number of important recovery runs and interceptions to regain possession for his side. Understandably, there’s now growing pressure on Robertson as Tsmikas continues to make a strong claim to become the club’s primary left-back.