Diogo Jota may not have found the net since finally returning from his four-month lay-off, but it may be no coincidence that Liverpool have enjoyed an upturn in form since he was brought back into the side.
The Reds are unbeaten in the Premier League since Jota recovered from the serious calf injury that caused him to miss the World Cup and, while he was involved in the mauling at the hands of Real Madrid, he played in less than a third of that game.
Jota provides plenty of what Liverpool have been missing in recent months. The time he has spent in Jurgen Klopp’s system means he is more attuned to the demands placed on the manager’s forwards when their team don’t have the ball, while he is more direct than some of his attacking team-mates.
Jota also possesses more guile in possession than the likes of Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo, which he showed with his composed ball into the area for Virgil van Dijk’s opener, while he was unlucky to foul Max Kilman in the run-up to Nunez’s disallowed goal after setting up the chance with a powerful run.
The Portugal international’s lack of goals show he is still not fully back to his best, but his return has come at the opportune time for Liverpool as they close on a top-four spot.
Wolves’ lack of goalscoring threat was once again plain to see in their defeat at Liverpool.
Julen Lopetegui’s side had just one shot on target that came in the third minute from Joao Moutinho’s saved shot.
The second half in particular made for grim reading statistically. Wolves did not have a shot and managed just two touches in the opposition box.
Their blank at Anfield means they have now failed to score in 12 of their Premier League games this season – the joint-most with Bournemouth.
Wolves have also scored just 18 league goals this season – only Everton (17) have scored fewer in the top four divisions of English football.
These are alarming numbers for Lopetegui, who needs to fix this quickly.
Wolves remain just three points above the bottom three, and with most of their relegation rivals now having a game in hand on them, the issue of scoring goals is growing to new levels of importance.
For 40 minutes at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal’s efforts to navigate the two banks of blue shirts defending Jordan Pickford’s goal ended in frustration. Everton were compact and organised. The hosts could barely even muster a shot at goal.
They needed a spark and it came, as it so often does, from Oleksandr Zinchenko. Bukayo Saka’s opener was of course brilliantly taken, but the chance only arose because of Zinchenko’s vision and his ability to execute passes other players can’t.
That he produced it from the right-hand side of midfield felt even more fitting. Zinchenko is a left-back only in name. In this game, as in so many others, he spent most of his time in central areas, where Everton ultimately found it impossible to stop him.
“That’s why we bought him,” said a smiling Mikel Arteta afterwards, “because he gives something different to the team, his mentality and his quality as well, to do certain things that allow us to be more unpredictable, to generate a lot of threat every time we are in possession.”
It helps, too, that he has done this all before. He became a serial winner at Manchester City but, as Arteta pointed out afterwards, he also amassed invaluable experience in unlocking stubborn defences. “He has played those kinds of games, against low blocks, 200 times and that’s very helpful.”
His role in this victory could be seen in the numbers. In addition to his assist, Zinchenko had the most touches of any player on the pitch (109), while nobody made more passes in the final third (31).
His performance was just the latest reminder of how he has helped take this Arsenal side to another level this season.
Everton had beaten Arsenal 1-0 in Sean Dyche’s first game in charge, so they could do it again just under a month later, couldn’t they?
For 40 minutes, it certainly looked like they were in with a shout. Sean Dyche’s men were incredibly well-organised for much of the first half, with tightly-packed groups of players restricting the space for Arsenal to manoeuvre in, and they looked a threat on the counter-attack, too. Had it not been for two lapses in concentration before the break, they might have built on those solid foundations after it.
Oleksandr Zinchenko played a lovely ball in for Bukayo Saka to finish with aplomb from an angle and, in a flash, it was two when Gabriel Martinelli slotted home after Saka had robbed the ball from Idrissa Gana Gueye after his costly – and bizarre – dawdling episode. Suddenly, the wind was taken from the sails of the Merseysiders.
It didn’t get any better in the second half, as a goal from Martin Odegaard and a second from Martinelli finished the job off for the Gunners, who, once again, moved five points clear of second-placed Manchester City with 13 games to play.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall given that Arsenal won the same fixture 5-1 on the final day of last term and Everton’s away form has been nothing short of abject this term, with just one win in 12 Premier League games so far in 2022/23. But there’s no getting away from the fact even a point in north London would have been priceless for Dyche and Co.
The reality is that they remain in the relegation zone, one point from safety and having played one game more than the two teams immediately above them – West Ham and Leeds – and the two teams immediately below them – Bournemouth and Southampton.
With 13 games to play, their destiny remains in their own hands, but with a total of just seven points taken from the last 30 on offer post-World Cup, fear of the drop will not be going anywhere anytime soon.