By his own high standards, Diogo Jota has not hit the ground running for Wolves in the Premier League, not by a long shot. Have there been flashes of brilliance? Of course. Have they been few and far between? Indeed. Regardless of what’s been going on in the Premier League, one thing hasn’t changed with Jota and that’s his international form. He has been nothing short of an integral cog in the Portuguese U21 side that is looking to qualify for next year’s European Championships. They finished second in their group to a very, very impressive Romanian side which meant that Portugal dropped into the playoffs, where they faced Poland.
As is usually the case with playoffs, there’s one home game and one away game. Portugal came away from the Southern Polish city of Zabrze with a 1-0 win in the first-leg which puts them in pole (no pun intended) position coming into the second-leg which takes place tomorrow. It was our man and Portugal’s skipper, Diogo Jota, who got the only goal of the game. So, guess what we are going to do? That’s right, look at his performance against Poland.
Much More Central
Jota (#9) plays as a central focal point for the Portuguese U21 side, essentially drifting where and when he likes. In many respects, he’s much more restricted to where he plays for Wolves as he tends to be stuck on the left-hand side, albeit, that’s not played a factor in his drop in form this year. It can’t have for the simple reason that he played the same role for Wolves last year. As you can see from the above pass map, Jota engages with almost everyone on his team, in particular, Gedson Fernandes (#8) & Yuri Ribeiro (#5).
He’s always hungry and looking for the ball and that has never left Diogo’s game. Who knows? Maybe if he gets on the scoresheet against Poland again tomorrow and one goes in off his arse on Sunday against Huddersfield, it could be the kickstart he needs. Enough of trying to predict the future, let’s analyse the past.
Wants The Ball
While it’s not entirely clear what formation Portugal were playing (it differs between 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3 dependant on where you look), one thing that is clear is something which I touched on literally moments ago. Jota wants the ball. All the time.
Jota has found room between four Polish defenders and is showing for the ball. In this phase of play, he doesn’t get the ball straight away, but that doesn’t put him off. From the above image, the ball is shifted to the right-hand side and Jota remains an option.
One of Jota’s many talents is his composure on the ball. He is rarely phased by some of the best defenders in the world in the Premier League, so Poland u21 (no disrespect) are hardly going to frighten him. The Polish defender approaches Diogo as he receives the ball (white dotted line) but Jota is too good. With one touch, he takes the ball backwards (red dotted line) and makes room yet again. This is so important because it means Portugal keep the ball and they can continue to build.
Rather than doing anything flash, Jota plays the straightforward pass to Yuri Ribeiro before continuing his run to the edge of the penalty area. He’s not screaming for the ball back, not by a long shot, nonetheless, it’s not too long before the ball arrives back at his feet.
Intelligence Shines Through
Ribeiro plays the ball back inside to Gedson Fernandes who then, in turn, brings Eustaquio into the picture. Eustaquio opts to play the simple pass into Jota’s feet and rather than playing the simple ball (the red line) and keeping the attack flowing, so to speak, he goes for the backwards pass, to keep the move alive. Many young players in a similar situation would’ve not necessarily done it that way and tried to force the issue. After all, there’s a reason that Jota is captain.
For the actual goal scored by Jota, it was his movement that was key once again. The goal itself wasn’t too dissimilar to the chance he squandered against Arsenal last week, albeit Grabara, in the Poland goal wasn’t as quick to shift his body shape as Bernd Leno was for Arsenal. It all began with a swift breakaway, headed up by Joao Felix.
A brisk turnover of possession puts Portugal into a two-on-two situation in the blink of an eye. Jota is off and bar a misplaced pass or a last-ditch foul, it’s pretty clear what’s about to happen. To be fair to the Polish defence, they almost salvage the situation.
Jota Breaks Free
In this instance, the defending player has caught up with Jota, however, it’s going to result in a win for Diogo either way. Firstly, he could go down as he’s being pulled back and probably get the defender sent. Alternatively, he breaks free and scores. After watching it a few times, I’m still not entirely sure what happens as it’s almost as if the defender chucks the towel in.
Quite how the situation has gone from Jota struggling to breathe due to the looming presence of the defender to having room to score is a mystery. It’s almost as if the defender is drawn to the ball and totally forgets what he’s doing. Credit where it’s due, Jota stayed on his feet when it mattered most and got his just deserts for his persistence when the ball hit the back of the net.
Taken Off Too Soon?
Diogo Jota got the only goal of the game before being replaced not too long after the hour mark and while one would presume that Portugal will beat Poland tomorrow, could the decision to withdraw him with the game finely poised prove to be costly? Jota’s all-round link up play means that even if he didn’t score again, there’s every possibility that he could’ve laid on a chance to make it 2-0. You only need to look at his individual pass map to see how well he links up with the rest of the side.
With Jota playing as a centre-forward of sorts, it’s hardly surprising to see that the majority of the passes are going backwards. He effectively acts a wall on the edge of the penalty area, so the ball can bounce off him, fortunately for Portugal, they kept hold of their one-goal lead and they’ve now got home advantage to look forward to.
Dependant on what happens tomorrow, Jota could arrive back in the Black Country raring to go and with us facing Huddersfield on Sunday, he could very well end up opening his account in the Premier League. Here’s hoping.
Until the next time.
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