After 14 goal involvements in the Premier League last season, there were a fair few fantasy football fans desperate to whack a cut-price Diogo Jota in their side for this season.
The Portuguese forward was instrumental in securing a shock seventh place finish last season, despite heavy investment, as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side excelled on their long-awaited return to the top flight.
That’s why it was so bitterly disappointing to see Jota and co start the season with a European hangover, owing from a ridiculously early start to Europa League qualification. Wolves opened up the season without a win in their first six league games, looking leggy, lethargic and generally off the boil.
For Jota personally, it was a wretched opening to the campaign. Just one goal from the forward in his opening 15 outings was a return that both he, and Wolves fans, will have been surprised to see.
Not to mention he didn’t record a single assist during that spell either.
Since then, a brace against Brighton in a 2-2 draw at the Amex is all he’s out to shout about, with a few okay performances here and there making up the remainder of the season.
That is, of course, until recently.
Europe has been his calling this term, and his last two ventures in the Europa League have brought with them two hat-tricks. Two fine-hat tricks, it must be said.
This is new territory for these Wolves players, having to balance European duty on Thursday nights alongside weekly doses of Premier League action.
But until now, they’ve done so magnificently. European football is well within their grasp once more this season – even Champions League football is not out of the question – and they’ve got one (and a half) feet firmly in the last 16 of the Europa League after their 4-0 thumping of Espanyol.
However, in order to achieve their goals this season, the goalscoring burden needs to be lifted from Raul Jimenez’s shoulders, which is why Jota’s return to form has come at exactly the right moment.
He’s already firing them into the latter stages of European competition, but transferring that knack of hitting the back of the net into domestic action has equal importance.
Starting lethargically against Norwich, it looked as if their midweek excursions were having a distinct impact on Sunday’s performance. The visitors looked hungrier and more energetic, pushing Santo’s men back into their own half and starving them of possession.
In such situations it’s important to try and regain a foothold in the match, or, when a chance does come your way, make sure you put it away.
A rare foray forward for Wolves produced the first goal, with Jota on hand to showcase his clinical finishing after a neat turn. He didn’t stop there either, with some abject Norwich defending granting him an easy opportunity to slam home his second.
Like London buses, Jota is back on form.
He caused the Norwich backline issues all afternoon, pulling defenders out of position and making incisive runs in behind that had Ben Godfrey and Grant Hanley scrambling back in desperation.
In the second half it was no different, with the third killer goal coming as a direct result of some fine work by Jota; strike partner Jimenez the ultimate beneficiary.
10 – Diogo Jota has scored 10 goals in his last 12 appearances in all competitions – he has only scored in four of those games, netting more than once on each occasion (two braces, two hat-tricks). Buses. pic.twitter.com/tp5lBQUNbM — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 23, 2020
10 – Diogo Jota has scored 10 goals in his last 12 appearances in all competitions – he has only scored in four of those games, netting more than once on each occasion (two braces, two hat-tricks). Buses. pic.twitter.com/tp5lBQUNbM
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 23, 2020
Such a lively performance has been absent all term, but with Wolves’ dreams of Champions League football, via either the Europa League or their Premier League position, the 23-year-old forward finding his scoring boots could well be the key ingredient to realising those ambitions.
Santo certainly acknowledges that given his decision to withdraw Jota 30 minutes from time, with fresh legs in his star players crucial in order to maintain their push for success this term.
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