Jota, Firmino or both? Liverpool's new fab four gives Klopp reason to believe

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Jurgen Klopp may have ditched his glasses this season, but the beaming, pearly-white smile remains.

And it was certainly on display last Saturday, as Liverpool opened their Premier League campaign in impressive fashion.

“Pretty much perfect,” was Klopp’s verdict after the Reds’ 3-0 win over Norwich at Carrow Road. 

“We can play better, that’s clear, but what you go in for at the start of the season is the result.”

He didn’t have to look far to find positives. Whether it was Virgil van Dijk’s first 90 minutes since last October, Kostas Tsimikas’ first Premier League start or the sight of 2,669 travelling Reds singing their hearts out for the first time in 18 months, there was much to enjoy. 

Much to ponder, too. Particularly in attack, where it looks as though a dilemma - and a nice one at that - has emerged.

Talk about first world problems, eh? While their rivals hunt for that elusive, expensive talisman, that mythical ‘20-goal striker’, Klopp can content himself with the fact he could have as many as four of them at his disposal this season.

It hasn’t taken long for Liverpool’s forwards to find their groove. Three of them - Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah - were on the scoresheet against Norwich, and the one that wasn’t, Sadio Mane, turned in a performance which suggests reports of his demise were, at the very least, a tad premature.

It was Salah, rightly, who grabbed the headlines, the Egyptian becoming the first player in the Premier League era to score in five successive opening-day fixtures and netting in his 100th separate game for Liverpool. “It’s good to have him,” smiled Klopp afterwards, making an early play for understatement of the season.

Salah, of course, is guaranteed a start this season, but it will be interesting to see how Klopp mixes and rotates his other options, and in particular whether Jota can usurp either Mane or Firmino as first choice. 

The Portugal international has certainly made an impressive start to his Anfield career. His maiden campaign on Merseyside brought 13 goals in all competitions, and that was despite a knee injury which kept him out for more than two months. 

It was Jota who got Liverpool’s new campaign up-and-running at Norwich, reacting quickest in the penalty area to fire home after Salah’s touch, intentionally or not, had run into his path. He does a lot of things well, Jota, and hitting the target is one of them.

“A pressing monster,” is how Pep Lijnders, Liverpool’s assistant manager, has described him. Lijnders was instrumental in the decision to pursue Jota last summer, having received glowing references from contacts in Portugal, as well as from the Reds’ scouting department.

The deal to sign him from Wolves may end up costing Liverpool as much as £45 million ($62m), but it looks like money well spent. “He’s ideal,” Kevin Thelwell, Wolves’ former sporting director, told Goal last September, and his words have been born out.

"I used to say to him 'Diogo, you're British!'" Thelwell added. "He can run into a brick wall but he’ll bounce straight back up, no problem."

Jota's form, and the ease with which he settled, means that for the first time, Klopp has someone to seriously challenge his long-established front three. Jota’s versatility - he played as a No.9 at Norwich, but is as comfortable operating off either flank or as part of a front two - means that Firmino, in particular, will be looking over his shoulder.

The good news is that the Brazilian appears to have worked his way out of last season’s slump. He looked sharp in Liverpool’s final pre-season fixture, and carried that form into the first league match, emerging from the bench to help take the game away from Norwich in the final half hour at Carrow Road. 

The return of fans seems to have rekindled something in the former Hoffenheim man. “He needs an audience,” said one Reds staff member this week. Klopp will be hoping his revival continues - he certainly needs more than the nine goals Firmino offered last season.

The same applies to Mane, who managed 16 in total but whose consistency, particularly in front of goal, deserted him around the turn of the year. The Senegal star finished the last campaign well, scoring the goals which secured Champions League qualification on the final day, and should, like Salah, feel the benefit of a full, uninterrupted pre-season. 

On song, there are few players more devastatingly effective than those two, and with Jota and Firmino at the ready, Klopp knows he has the options to win pretty much any game.

Will we even, perhaps, see all four starting together at some point? It happened last season, most notably away at Manchester City, and with the team’s defensive and midfield structure hopefully less affected by injury this time around, the temptation to switch to a 4-2-3-1 system, for odd game at least, will be there.

Much has been made of Liverpool’s squad depth, or lack of it, and it is true that many observers - including this one - would suggest that, in an ideal world, one more quality attacking option is required. 

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Maybe Takumi Minamino, quietly impressive in pre-season, can be just that, while it is right to be excited by the potential of teenagers Harvey Ellliott and Kaide Gordon, who are developing rapidly. 

Maybe Liverpool will dip into the transfer market before the end of the month, and provide Klopp with another piece of heavy artillery.

But if they don’t, then it’s not the end of the world. He already has his Fab Four, and if they continue to fire, then the Reds will be going close this season, for sure. 

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