Carragher says Jota is Liverpool’s best Premier League finisher – is he right?

“I think of some of the strikers I’ve played alongside — Michael Owen, Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres, Robbie Fowler — he’s the best finisher.”

And so Jamie Carragher started the debate about who is Liverpool’s best finisher of the Premier League era, with the Sky Sports pundit and former defender doubling down on his shout of Diogo Jota in the days since that original statement.

There is evidence to support Carragher’s view of Jota, from his 10th and 11th goals of the season in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Bournemouth to his 19.3 per cent shot-to-goal conversion rate in the Premier League for Liverpool.

Speaking on Tuesday before the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg tonight (Wednesday) away to Fulham, Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders talked up Jota’s performances and explained how the staff get the 27-year-old Portugal international in the right mindset.

“When Jota is in this angry mood, he wants to run against the world,” Lijnders said. “He can do incredible things. We have to get him in that mood as often as possible. We are really happy with him.”

But is Jota really Liverpool’s greatest finisher of the 32-year Premier League era? Here, a group of our writers nominate their favourites. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this article…

Robbie Fowler

By Oliver Kay

There are some brilliant goalscorers on this list. In terms of pure finishing, I would put Torres, Owen, Daniel Sturridge and Jota above Suarez, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah. And don’t forget Ian Rush, who was still scoring goals for Liverpool when the Premier League era began in 1992.

But when it comes to finishing, I would put Fowler above all of them.

It wasn’t just the number of goals (183 for Liverpool, 171 of them in his first spell). It was the variety and precocious nature of his finishes. He had an instinctive knowledge of when to curl it, when to smash it, when to take the shot early and catch the goalkeeper by surprise.

Much of Fowler’s finishing was textbook. At other times, it was improvised and outrageous. In those first three or four years after breaking into Liverpool’s team as a teenager, before injury struck and took away some of his sharpness and confidence, whenever the ball reached him within 25 yards from goal, you expected the net to bulge.

Favourite Fowler goal
Manchester United 2 Liverpool 2, October 1995 (Premier League)
From what he calls a “ridiculous” angle, an astonishing strike with the outside of his left foot, which flew past Peter Schmeichel and inside the near post.

Daniel Sturridge

By Andy Jones

Given the seemingly never-ending list of injuries that plagued Sturridge’s Liverpool career, it is easy to forget the class he possessed in front of goal.

Jurgen Klopp didn’t. “He is one of the best finishers I have ever seen. He scores goals you think should not be possible,” Klopp said when confirming the striker’s departure in 2019.

In his collection of 67 goals from 160 appearances, Sturridge showed he had every finish in the book. From the sublime chip against West Bromwich Albion to the spectacular curler against Chelsea, you would also have put your house on him to score whenever the ball fell to him in the box.

Much like his outgoing personality, Sturridge made finishing look fun. There was a confidence that bordered on arrogance, but it was a testament to his composure and calmness. He operated with a grace and skill that encapsulated his finishing, but every shot he took coupled beauty with devastating power.

Had it not been for injuries, the goalscoring and the celebrations would have been much more frequent.

Favourite Sturridge goal
Liverpool 1 Sevilla 3, May 2016 (Europa League final)
Ultimately, it counted for nothing but pulling off an outside-of-the-boot finish in a European final summed him up. Pure quality.

Luis Suarez

By Philip Buckingham

Had this debate been held at the end of 2013, when Liverpool were confidently chasing a Premier League title under Brendan Rodgers, the case for Suarez would have been compelling. Even Carragher was calling him “perfect” back then.

Suarez scored all sorts of goals. Close-range headers, those rifled shots from tight angles and long-range free kicks… he had the lot. Even if his numbers (82 goals from 133 games) were topped up by his ritual torment of Norwich City, opponents he scored against 12 times in six meetings, he had something that most lack — that composure, that ability to slow everything down until the clinical finish is applied.

So many of those goals were beautifully taken, too. Suarez could round goalkeepers and catch others off-guard with a poked finish, but those that were stroked in with the outside of the right foot came unerringly naturally.

Without the controversies and bans, he would have scored more, but those three and a half years at Anfield elevated Suarez to among the best in European football. “The penalty-area assassin”, as Luis Enrique once said.

Favourite Suarez goal
Liverpool 1 Newcastle 1, November 2012 (Premier League)
Controlled a long ball forward on his chest and rounded Tim Krul in one motion. Made the ridiculously difficult look simple.

Fernando Torres

By Caoimhe O’Neill

There was something different about the way Torres did it.

Remember ‘El Nino’ running into celebration mode in his all-red Adidas strip, long sleeves sagging in the wind, the No 9 shirt made weightless again?

Remember the white socks and tape wrapped above the matching Nike Total 90s, his feet packaged up like gifts?

Remember his cut and finish and how it defined an era in more ways than one?

Remember his blonde highlights spilling out of his hairband?

Remember those slick Steven Gerrard passes he would home and hone?

Remember how he would slipstream into his own private fast lane? Nemanja Vidic was not alone in being on the receiving end. Torres scored 81 goals in 142 appearances.

A painful break-up meant it felt like a joyous three and a half years never even happened. But that rift has healed. Time is forgiving. Torres never was when through on goal.

Favourite Torres goal
Manchester United 1 Liverpool 4, March 2009 (Premier League)
goal at Old Trafford. Cristiano Ronaldo had not long put United in front and then Torres pounced. The whole energy of an intense title race meeting spun in Liverpool’s favour after Torres’ high five of a moment.

Diogo Jota

By James Pearce

Let’s get one thing clear, Salah is Liverpool’s greatest attacker of the Premier League era. His goalscoring record of 204 (151 in the league) in six and a half seasons is extraordinary. His consistency puts him in a class of his own.

But best finisher? That’s a different matter.

Carragher is spot on with the praise he gave to Jota.

If the title race goes down to the final minute of the final game in May and Liverpool have a one-on-one opportunity against Wolves at Anfield to seal glory, I’d rather that chance fell to him than anyone else.

Jota is ruthless and he has a rare knack for staying calm under immense pressure.

Look at his collection of 52 Liverpool goals (which would be much greater but for the injury setbacks) and there’s variety — left foot, right foot, cool placement and brutal power. For someone 5ft 10in (178cm), he’s also ridiculously good in the air.

Jota is a master at catching goalkeepers off-guard with a sweetly-struck first-time finish. He’s so alert when the ball drops invitingly in the box. The stats don’t lie — a conversion rate of one goal every five shots (38 from 197) underlines his credentials.

Favourite Jota goal
Liverpool 4 Tottenham 3, April 2023 (Premier League)
Anfield had been stunned by Richarlison’s equaliser deep in stoppage time. Liverpool’s 3-0 lead had disappeared.

There was time for one final attack.

Alisson pumped the ball downfield, Lucas Moura’s control let him down and Jota pounced. He had two touches to steady himself as he burst into the box and then dispatched a low left-footer beyond Fraser Forster and into the far corner. The crowd erupted.

It was Jota at his cool, clinical best.

What the data says

Jota has scored with roughly one in five of his shots for Liverpool in the Premier League — that is famously a ratio used disparagingly by Glenn Hoddle about Andrew Cole, but it doesn’t matter what era you’re looking at, scoring with 20 per cent of your shots is A Good Thing. Nevertheless, data loves a caveat, so let’s run through a few of them here.

First, Fowler and Owen had the drawback of hitting their career peaks before the era of ‘big data’ began.

Fowler was the long-time holder of the Premier League’s fastest hat-trick record — eventually taken from him by Mane — which is a pretty big clue that he was one of the most clinical finishers in the division’s history. Owen was perhaps less so, but he does remain the only non-adult (ie, somebody under 18) in Premier League history to take a penalty, highlighting his precocious composure.

The cut-off for Sky’s conversion rate table as Carragher made his case, which had Jota on top, was 25 goals. Bandings are there to be adjusted, though, and by moving that minimum down slightly to 20, we get a new name in first place: Divock Origi.

In 107 Premier League appearances (73 of which came from the bench), Origi registered 106 shots, with 20.8 per cent of them resulting in goals. Not only is that statistically supreme, but the sheer array of noteworthy goals Origi scored surely puts him in with a shout.

After all, what is more important in a finisher than scoring at the most vital moment?

Duncan Alexander

Top photos: Getty Images

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