These articles are dual-focused, analysing a player’s role within their club from a footballing perspective before considering whether that information translates into them being a viable consideration for our FPL teams. This instalment discusses Wolves forward Diogo Jota.
For several months, it appeared that Diogo Jota would be unable to replicate the form which saw him score 17 Championship goals in Wolves’ promotion season. A foul on him which saw Phil Jagielka dismissed and Ruben Neves open his Premier League account was the Portuguese’s only direct goal involvement before December.
Perhaps coincidentally, a subtle change in system by Nuno Espirito Santo was all that was required to bring the best out of Jota once again. Rather than playing off the left in a 3-4-3, he became the second striker in a 3-5-2, offering support to Raul Jimenez in attack. Jota’s first goal of the season came against Chelsea following the formation change and he never looked back, adding a further eight goals before the end of the season.
Particularly impressive was what became an almost telepathic understanding with Raul Jimenez, with both players knowing exactly when and where to find each other on the pitch. It was fitting that three months after Jota scored against Chelsea, he and Jimenez combined for one of the season’s most impressive breakaway goals at Stamford Bridge, with the Mexican applying a deft finish after the pair had exchanged several passes to outwit the Blues’ defence.
As well as being abundantly clear on the pitch, Jota’s new role showed up in the stats as an xGI of 10.04 across the final 24 matches ranked him 21st amongst all players and 11th for those outside the top six clubs. He by no means produced outstanding numbers, but the sudden mid-season switch from limited involvement was both surprising and impressive and very reminiscent of Nathan Redmond at Southampton following their change of manager around the same time.
Jota’s drastic change in fortunes coupled with the consistent form of Raul Jimenez provide a possible explanation for the club’s unwillingness to spend big on another striker. Wolves appeared to lead the race for West Brom forward Salomon Rondon, but interest has cooled having heard the demands of their Black Country rivals. With such a strong partnership at the top end of the pitch, it will be difficult for any potential signing to replace either Jota or Jimenez on a regular basis.
This is despite the fact that the club will begin their Europa League adventure later this month and could do with some additional squad depth to avoid succumbing to disappointing domestic early season form in the same way as Burnley did in 2018/19.
Factors like this are potentially concerning for Jota from an FPL perspective, a player who only played 90 minutes on ten occasions last season. Limited minutes even as a starter are certainly on the horizon in gameweeks either side of a midweek Europa League fixture.
However, aside from the impressive second half to the season, Jota does have a number of factors in his favour. The first is the reclassification from midfielder to forward, which despite garnering one fewer point for each goal and clean sheet, keeps his price down and puts him into a budget forward bracket that is usually a barren wasteland.
That cut-price valuation of £6.5m is not too dissimilar from the cheapest playable forwards such as David McGoldrick (£5.5m) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.0m), neither of whom have proved they can perform on Jota’s level in the Premier League.
Therefore, acquiring Jota is a low-risk investment compared to the pricier forward options, but one with potentially high rewards in view of how he performed in the second half of 2018/19. If opting for a Wolves forward, a balance must be struck between cost and Jimenez’s more impressive underlying statistics and most likely higher ownership. An assessment of Jimenez’s credentials in comparison will be released later on today.
To summarise, Nuno Espirito Santo’s decision to tweak his 3-4-3 system into a 3-5-2 got the best out of Jota during the final six months of the season. Not only did nine goals follow, but he established an understanding with Raul Jimenez that rivals some of the best strike partnerships in recent Premier League seasons. It is not on the level of the likes of Lacazette and Aubameyang or Suarez and Sturridge yet, but if the goals continue at the rate they have been, Jota may just be able to rival their prior value for money in FPL next season.