I’d like to think I’ve saved the best for last. It’s the most recent of the performances I’ve called out and I’ve had the added benefit of the Wolves media team uploading a full replay of the game in question as part of their regular content in the lockdown period. You can find it here.
The man in question is of course Diogo Jota, the one player in the Wolves squad who holds the greatest capacity for offering up these singular masterclasses, a one-man tornado of a forward who can devastate defences single-handedly.
Diogo Jota – Wolves 3-1 Arsenal (2019)
But first, some context…
It’s fair to say Wolves had had a good time of it on their return to the Premier League. One man who hadn’t necessarily had the smoothest of rides though was Jota. It took him until December to score his first goal – the winner against Chelsea wasn’t a bad way to kick off – and he hadn’t translated his excellent Championship form into the Premier League as most had expected.
Jota has shown he can have these barren runs of form and come out the other side looking a million dollars on more than one occasion though. He also seems to perform the role of catalyst for the team as a whole. Wolves were on a poor run prior to that Chelsea victory and were without a win this season before his equalising goal against Crystal Palace.
It was the movement of Jota in to a strike pairing with Raul Jimenez that really sparked the 2018/19 campaign into life and in this game alone you can visibly see how Jota’s force of will drives his team on to better performances. Let’s face it, Arsenal were much the better team for the first 20 minutes of the game.
The likes of Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi see plenty of the ball, weaving their pretty patterns, relatively deep into the Wolves half. Obviously, Nuno’s Wolves tend to be quite comfortable in these scenarios, and for what it’s worth Arsenal didn’t create much at all. But the lack of possession could have raised a level of concern as Wolves tried to gain a foothold in the game.
That was until Diogo Jota decided to get involved. Each key action in the game can be traced back to Jota but it’s a piece of defensive work which proves to be the catalyst for Wolves to grow in to the match. Ainsley Maitland-Niles bursts past Jota to pick up the ball on the right hand side for Arsenal, but as he looks to do something with it, a Portuguese bull barges him off it, before haring back in the opposite direction with ball in tow.
Not only did it get the crowd going but it sparked Wolves into life as an attacking force. From then on, Jota became a tornado of activity, destroying everything in his path in what was a scintillating display of attacking football in the first half.
For the first goal, it’s Jota who opens up the game with a typical run, before feeding Jonny who is fouled, allowing Ruben Neves to bend one into the bottom corner of Bernd Leno’s goal. The second comes from Jota twisting Maitland-Niles’ blood near the by-line before smashing the ball across goal to win a corner. Matt Doherty profits from the smartly-worked routine that follows. The third is entirely Jota’s work, his calling card since arriving at Wolves.
Diogo is to dribbling, what Ali was to boxing at times. He floats like a butterfly, but stings like a by. He takes a battering, seemingly dodging all the hits that come his way and somehow retaining possession. He also counter-attacks like no other player in the Wolves squad – direct, agile and lethal. Pouncing on a mistake in the Arsenal midfield, Jota only takes three touches of the ball, but in that time he gets control of it, skips past Sokratis Papastathopoulos and fires home through Leno. On this kind of form, there is no better player in a Wolves shirt.
Since we came back to football, he hasn’t necessarily been as effective as we might like. Jota often smoulders, but really needs to catch fire if he is to build up any kind of form. His goals come in gluts rather than a consistent flow and at the moment he’s a victim of a team who prefer to take things easy for the first 45 minutes of games.
Last season’s first half against The Gunners shows just what he can do with 45 minutes to play with though. More of the same this weekend Diogo?