Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has heaped praise on forward Diogo Jota despite his lack of goals this season.
The Reds are currently 13 points behind Man Utd in fourth and host Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday.
This time last year, Liverpool were competing for an unprecedented quadruple, finishing the season as Carabao and FA Cup winners.
To go from that to this in the space of a year is baffling, but what is evident is that Klopp will need to heavily invest in his squad this summer.
The German manager has been without Luis Diaz since the return fixture at Arsenal in October, while Thiago, Diogo Jota, Ibrahima Konate and Roberto Firmino have all missed significant time out injured.
Jota made his return to action on February 13 but is without a goal in 18 appearances this season.
The Portuguese forward does love playing against Arsenal and a goal against the league leaders feels inevitable, coming from an Arsenal point of view, that is. He has eight goals in 12 appearances against the Gunners.
Klopp discussed Jota when speaking to Sky Sports this weekend, saying the 26-year-old is a “super” player and was “missed” during his lengthy absence.
“I thought Diogo has done really well since he’s back because it was a really long injury for that,” he said.
“A super mature boy, super. Dealing well with difficulties and setbacks. It was really impressive, for the age he is.
“The level of the performance he produced, I really liked. He was good against Chelsea. He closed the right side really well and offensively was a threat again.
“He doesn’t have the foundation physically to go and go and go and go, yet, because of the long injury. But Diogo is a really good player and we missed him a lot during the season.
“We missed Lucho (Luis Diaz) as well, a lot, for big parts of the season. From next week on, Lucho will be back hopefully as well, completely normal.
“Diogo is back which is absolutely helpful.
“It might be for him that this year is not one he will remember as the best of his life because he was injured for the majority of it. But for us with these last few games we have, he is super important.”
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Meanwhile, Virgil van Dijk has faced a large amount of criticism this season, though Klopp has insisted the Dutch centre-back has always been a big “leader” for his team.
“Virg is a leader, he’s not under pressure to be a leader,” he said. “He’s a leader and was always a leader. Maybe the focus is now a little bit more on him.
“I don’t think he is more vocal than before to be honest. I think he was always vocal. In a super game, I don’t think you realise how much people are talking because it’s constantly going, but in his line we have to play better as well.
“But he knows that. He knows that as well and everything we can do to do that is very welcome. Yes, organising a line is a massive thing but it’s not that he started now, becoming a leader or whatever. It was always the case, from the first day.”
Van Dijk missed Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Chelsea through illness. Klopp rested a lot of key players for that game, leaving Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah on the bench.
All three are expected to start against Arsenal and Klopp was asked if some players are always guaranteed a starting role.
The German said: “I didn’t think about it. Probably, maybe. It is and always was based on performing. Always was based on performing.
“In games, if you perform well or extremely well, then you have a very good chance of staying in the team. That’s how it is but always was. You have to force yourself to make a decision.
“‘He needs a rest now for whatever reason. Played last week, played two weeks ago, played four days ago.’ All these kinds of things to make a change.
“But because we are in no cup competitions anymore, I think we have one more week with three games, when we have a week like after the Arsenal game, when we play Sunday and then Monday. That’s eight days, a lot of training possible and of course we have to.
“But if we perform on Sunday, at our best, best level, then that has a massive influence as well. Completely normal stuff.”
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