Jota 2019/20 – scout report
With many Benfica and Portuguese fans alike touting Jota as one of the next best Portuguese players, he certainly has a lot to live up to. Former coaches and present coach Bruno Lage have also heaped praise on the young talent, with some claiming he is “clearly miles better technically than anyone of his age.”
In this scout report, we will provide an analysis showing Jota’s strengths, as well as where he needs to improve to assert himself as Portugal’s next best player in what might be described as a golden generation for Portugal with the likes of future Barcelona player Trincao and current Atletico Madrid player Joao Felix.
Dribbling and Ball Control
Jota’s stand-out skill is his ability to control the ball, whether that be whilst dribbling or through his first touch. This often leads to him creating chances for either himself or his teammates by opening up space as he draws more and more defenders towards him. If we look at a few statistics, we see he is 2nd in the Liga NOS for dribbles per 90 with 7.83 and 3rd for progressive runs per 90 with 2.93.
As can be seen in the final third dribble map above, Jota is a potent dribbler, with many of his dribbles in the same area on the left hand side resulting in a shot, and one resulting in a goal after he fired a shot into the top right corner. One reason why Jota is a great dribbler is because of his ball control, as he is able to keep the ball close to himself and put himself between the opposing defender and the ball when necessary.
In the following example, we see Jota making a central run from the wing which is facilitated by Lage’s tactics. This provides an opportunity not just for Jota to show his amazing ball control, but all his strength and awareness to hold off the defender.
In this first image, we see Taarabt in possession, and Jota looking to make a run in behind due to Benfica striker Vinicius dragging both centre-backs to the right. This also provides evidence for Jota’s ability to make runs in behind.
Once the ball is played over the top of the Aves defence, Jota has to try to take the ball down, and ensure it does not fall into the path on the chasing defender. As many footballers and coaches will testify to, bringing the ball down from the air with it being delivered over your shoulder is one of the most difficult tasks. However, not only does Jota successfully bring the ball down, he manages to elegantly take a seamless second touch to prod the ball away from the defender.
This touch allows Jota to get away from his defender. Following this, he drives into the open space behind the right-back, and get a shot off. Unfortunately, and probably an area for improvement for Jota is that he did not generate enough power and accuracy in his shot, putting it straight at the keeper, and therefore wasting the great one on one opportunity he created for himself.
One area which often separates the great from the world-class talents is their decision making. In this area, Jota shows why so many fans and coaches rate him so highly. Jota often works best at a high intensity; making moves that require a fast speed of thought which allows him to make good decisions at high speed. However, he is also capable of slowing proceedings down, and timing his actions to create the best opportunities.
In the following example, we see multiple opportunities for Jota to play a pass, however, he waits to be able to produce the right one which will produce the best opportunity for his team.
Firstly, we see Jota with two clear passing opportunities, one of fullback Nuno Tavares and one to striker Raul de Tomas coming wider. However, neither of these passes would result in an overall progression, because both would still be faced with two players around them. As a result, Jota waits for new angles to be made.
Having cut inside and allowed his teammates to create new passing options, the situation is still very much the same, with Raul, Tavares, and left centre midfielder Florentino Luis not providing the right passing lane. At this point, as opposed to playing his teammates into trouble, he again waits one last time, as opposed to recycling possession. In this instance, he is successful.
In this final image, we see Jota finally picking out his pass, and it is a great one. As opposed to other opportunities presented throughout this phase which would have forced the recipient to have his back towards the defender, this pass over the top gives an immediate one on one opportunity.
Many coaches describe some of the best playmakers as those whose minds are ahead of the game. We have seen comments like this about Mesut Ozil and Bruno Fernandes, with them being a step or two ahead of what is happening. Obviously, this is only a metaphor, but it applies similarly to Jota, who seems to know how each option would play out before he has even received the ball. Again, whilst this is a metaphor, his ability to make the right decisions even when under pressure is another sign of him being an outstanding talent.
Another asset Jota has is his ability to pass the ball, whether that be long passes, short passes, or crosses. Having a look at some of the statistics compared to the rest of the league. Jota ranks sixth for passes per 90 in the league with 36.2, makes the most crosses per 90 (8.32), and also makes the most progressive passes per 90 with 10.76 per 90, highly impressive stats for a 21-year-old. Below, is also his shot assist map which shows his versatility in passing, whether it be a short or long pass, on the right or on the left, or a square pass or a through pass.
In addition to his versatility in passing, there is also the timing of the pass, as was discussed in the previous section. Below, we see examples of Jota’s movement in making the pass to his teammate possible.
Jota starts wide on the left as was expected from him. However, the fact that he is practically on the touchline and not a bit further up is key, as it shows his ability to process the situation and knows that he will be providing a pass to a teammate in a heavily congested area. This leads to him stretching the oppositions midfield block and potentially opening up a run from Gedson Fernandes to produce the one-two between Jota and himself.
Following a quick burst of pace and a rotation including Raul and Gedson Fernandes, a simple passing option becomes available, which is where Jota shows his quick feet and tight ball control as discussed earlier to immediately play the through pass to Fernandes, as shown in the image below.
Whilst this whole situation may seem very simple, for a young player this is very promising, as it shows his ability to seek space and play passes at a high intensity, as well as weighting them perfectly to produce opportunities for his teammates.
Defensive work rate
Jota is often required to work quite hard defensively as a result of being on the wing in a 4-4-2. This is perhaps, one of Jota’s most underappreciated aspects. Looking at the statistics already paints a picture; Jota ranks first in the league for final third recoveries with 3.42 and 12th for counter pressing recoveries with 2.93 per 90.
In the situation below, we see Jota being the furthest player left in the midfield bank, as the ball gets switched by Vitoria de Setubal from their left to right.
As can be seen, Jota seems a little static and perhaps looking to be reactive as opposed to proactive with his pressing. However, this is a pressing trap in which Jota is a key player; by making himself look disinterested, he can tempt a pass from which he can press and look to regain possession high for his team or force a mistake from the opposition. We see this immediate press in place as soon as the ball is released to the Vitoria right back.
From here, Jota cuts off potential passing lanes smartly, by widening his body as much as possible, which results in the ball being played back to the goalkeeper who was also immediately pressured by Raul. As a result, the ball is played long and Benfica successfully regain possession as a result of the hard work of Jota.
Across this scout report, we have looked at Jota’s dribbling technique, his ball control, how he prefers to pass, the effectiveness of his passes, his decision making in using his great passing and dribbling skills, and his off the ball work rate to regain possession. Across his limited playing time this season, we have already seen a star in the making, with Jota always wanting to influence proceedings, a sign of a highly talented youngster.
Whether he fulfills his amazing potential or not will depend on his mentality and playing time, but throughout this tactical analysis, it has been clear the number seven for Portugal’s youth team is one of the best candidates yet to follow in the footsteps of Juventus and Portugal’s senior number 7, Cristiano Ronaldo, as Portugal’s best player.