Already among the most fearsome in Europe, Liverpool further bolstered their attacking options in January with the signing of Luis Diaz.
The Colombia international joined to much fanfare after a glittering spell with Porto, full of goals and silverware. At 25 years old, he’s just about to enter his prime but is at that perfect age where he can still learn much from Jurgen Klopp and has a lot to prove at the highest level.
Liverpool are still well in touch with Manchester City as the Premier League title race moves into its critical stage. The Reds also have an EFL Cup final against Chelsea and FA Cup ventures to look forward to. Not to mention that cataclysmic Champions League clash with Italian giants Inter Milan.
They could end with nothing or, with a little help from Diaz, claim ultimate glory. So, exactly how will the Colombian help?
1. Taking the goalscoring burden from Salah and Jota
To have one player running away with the Golden Boot race is nice, but two? Well, that’s just unfair!
Mohamed Salah is currently clear at the front with 16 Premier League goals in 22 appearances, and that’s even after a run of just one in his last five and being disrupted by his Africa Cup of Nations duties with Egypt. But while he was away, Diogo Jota stepped up with two goals in the Premier League to take his tally to 12.
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The pair are six and two clear of nearest challenger Raheem Sterling, respectively, and together, they are responsible for 45% of Liverpool’s 61 Premier League strikes. Sadio Mane has a solid eight, but it’s clear Klopp has centred his attack around an Egyptian King and a Portuguese Phenom this season.
In Diaz, they’ve signed a player with 16 goals to his name in 28 appearances for Porto across all competitions this season, including 14 in 18 Primeira Liga games. After a short adjustment period, you’d bank on him adding to his tally in a red shirt, not only boosting Liverpool’s firepower, but letting Salah and Jota know it’s okay to go a few games without a goal.
2. Competition for places
In the extreme short-term, Diaz’s main task might just be to extract even more from Liverpool’s existing attacking options by basic competition for places.
Salah and Jota are on a tear. But while he’s always been the creator and facilitator, Roberto Firmino will not be happy with his return of four Premier League goals so far this season. Rumours of Mane’s demise are misplaced and at Afcon, he showed how talismanic he can still be, while a return of eight Premier League goals so far is not to be sniffed at.
But if Liverpool are to compete on all four fronts, they’ll need even more, from everyone.
The arrival of Diaz sends a message to Mane that his standards cannot slip, while Firmino will now have to work even harder for that starting spot. Jota and Salah can rest a little easier knowing a drop of form won’t affect the wider group as hard, but they’ll be equally aware of who is clipping at their heels, waiting for a chance to supplant them.
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Andrew Robertson has returned to the peak of his powers thanks to the pressure put on him by Kostas Tsimikas. That Liverpool now have four centre-backs that could walk into almost any team on the planet is drawing the best out of each of them.
With no disrespect meant to Divock Origi or Takumi Minamino, Diaz will now provide a level of competition to the Liverpool forward line not yet seen. And that is good for everyone.
3. Klopp can open the throttle again
Jurgen Klopp has certainly calmed down from that ‘heavy metal football’ style that defined his early years at Liverpool — even if some still try to suggest otherwise. Instead, his side is more refined, picking their moment to pounce, while their increased quality makes them far more possession-dominant.
But there’s no doubting that there’s a time and a place for Klopp to open the throttle again. Whether he’s playing a rival that loves the ball even more but is susceptible to a well-coordinated press (like Man City), or a lesser side that will try to pass through Liverpool but can be crushed through relentless chasing after the ball, Klopp’s old ‘Plan A’ can still be ‘Plan B’.
Diaz fits this bill perfectly.
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Taking league and Champions League matches into consideration, the Colombian outperforms Liverpool starting trio of Salah, Jota and Mane when it comes to possessions won per 90 in each third of the pitch. In the attacking third, he averages an impressive 1.19, compared to 0.87, 1.07 and 0.72, respectively, from his new teammates.
If Liverpool need to chase or overwhelm, Diaz is their man.
4. A taste for the spectacular
Something that’ll help the Anfield crowd (or any, really) take a new player to their hearts quickly is a wondergoal. Whether it’s a 30-yard rocket, a solo run beating three or four defenders, or an artistic curl into the far corner, the Kop has borne witness to some of the greatest moments English and European football has ever seen.
If Diaz’s recent Copa America exploits (which included a Puskas Award nominee) are anything to go by, he’ll be making a few additions to the history books himself during his time on Merseyside:
The 11 nominees for FIFA’s Puskás Award 2021 have been announced 🌟 [THREAD]
🇨🇴 Luis Díaz
— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 29, 2021
¡Excelente definición! Luis Díaz remató exigido y marcó el empate de @FCFSeleccionCol en Brasilia
— Copa América (@CopaAmerica) July 7, 2021
— Copa América (@CopaAmerica) July 10, 2021
5. In his own words…
Though they often try to remain humble, it’s usually better to go straight to the horse’s mouth when trying to find out a player’s best strengths. In the case of Diaz, during his unveiling, he promised speed, dribbling and goals. You can never have too much of those!
“I think I can bring a lot to the team in terms of my pace and my skill and technique on the ball and ability to dribble,” the 25-year-old said. “I think they are a couple of my strengths. Also, I can score goals.
“In addition to that, I just want to send a message to the fans to say hello and if you keep supporting us, like you always have done, I know you’re a great set of fans and I am going to give absolutely everything I’ve got, 100 per cent, to help my team as much as I can and hopefully make you really happy.”
If Diaz delivers on his potential, Liverpool fans will be far more than just ‘happy’.