Diogo Jota's importance to Liverpool is laid bare in ugly Burnley victory

Craig Vickers
Jota is now key for Liverpool
Jota is now key for Liverpool / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

It was just over 18 months, as Diogo Jota arrived at Anfield from Wolves, that the collective footballing community where left scratching their heads as to why the Reds had coughed up such a hefty fee for a player who had lost his place in the Wolves side.

Indeed, the Portuguese's potential was never in doubt. But the conventional wisdom was that, with Liverpool coming off the back of their first title-winning season since 1990, the Reds were now shopping in a market beyond a Wolves side flirting with Europa League football.

The conclusion, then, was that Jota had arrived as an insurance policy. The links between Real Madrid and Mohamed Salah were lingering above Anfield, while Sadio Mane had just struck 22 goals and produced 12 assists to fire Klopp's side to the Premier League the previous season.

And yet, as Liverpool fight and scrap to reclaim their Premier League title 18 months on, it is Jota who the Anfield faithful now look to for inspiration.

Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota
Jota coming on for Mane / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Liverpool's quest to keep pace with runaway league leaders Man City was kept alive with a 1-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor, but it is a game which will only be remembered if the Reds are holding aloft the Premier League trophy in May.

Indeed, with Salah and Mane having only recently returned from an emotionally-charged Africa Cup of Nations this had all the makings of a banana skin contest for Jurgen Klopp's side.

Klopp revealed before the match that he had intended to start with Jota over Mane but that, with the Portuguese having sustained a dead leg in training, he was afraid to risk him from the get-go.

The Liverpool boss was fortunate that lady luck had been on Liverpool's side in the first half when Fabinho stabbed home a corner before he had to summon the Portuguese from the bench.

It was a Reds performance which lacked conviction in the area of the pitch they have mastered over the years. It was a display completed at odds with the conviction Jota has shown in front of goal in recent months.

A brace in the midweek victory over Leicester at Anfield, Jota has netted 17 times already this campaign, 12 of which have been concentrated in their tussle with Man City for the Premier League.

It is some way short of Salah's remarkable 23-goal haul so far this term, but the Egyptian plays a very specific, often touchline-hugging role for Liverpool. The freedom which Jota is afforded in a central striking position injects a spark into the Reds which was exacerbated this afternoon with a fatigued Salah and Mane combination in the forward line.

In just 23 minutes on the pitch, Jota had fashioned more attempts at the Burnley goal than Roberto Firmino. The Portuguese offers a cutting edge in the penalty area that Premier League defences have increasingly no answer to.

Against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in their Carabao Cup semi-final second leg, it was Jota who took the contest by the scruff of the neck in the first half and provided the sole piece of decisiveness for Klopp's men.

Diogo Jota
Jota celebrates against Arsenal / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

It was also his perfectly-timed run which caught the Gunners on the hop to send Liverpool to Wembley and provide Klopp with another opportunity to add to his Anfield legacy.

Questioned upon his arrival, it is Jota who is now an indispensable figure in the Liverpool side heading into the business end of the season.