Harry Redknapp’s summer transfer window in 2017 will be looked back upon with bittersweet vision by most bluenoses. On one hand, you have the acquisition of quality players like Maxime Colin and Harlee Dean who’ve since more-than-proven their worth in the long term. On the other, you have flop players on high wages such as Cheikh N’Doye and the disappointing David Stockdale to contrast.
Across the total 14 signings during ‘arry’s tenure, it’s easy to sort each player into one of two categories: worth it or not worth it.
There is however a certain Spanish winger that, despite being at the club for almost 18 months now, still resides in a space in between these categories – a Jota-exclusive limbo, whose lone occupant has caused many Blues fan to debate over whether he has lived up to his worth.
Costing Blues around £6.5 million when he joined from Brentford (which remains our highest costing transfer to date), the then 26-year-old Spaniard was by far the most exciting and most surprising acquisition of a very busy summer. Given his fantastic season the year before, some were so dismissive of the rumours that they went so far as to wager a tattoo of old Harry if it happened…
— BrummieJoe (@BrummieJoeHD) September 8, 2017
And it did happen. Jota, a player so desired by clubs throughout the Championship, was ours.
Alongside what seemed like a whole host of quality signings, all signs pointed to Jota to spearhead a brand new, more attractive Birmingham City. What we got was a ghost in the shell.
In fairness, looking back at the lack of a consistent starting 11 under both Redknapp and Cotterill, Jota never seemed to be utilised as the main creative threat we all expected him to be. That, coupled with sitting on the bench in favour of the tactical genius of putting centre-forward Sam Gallagher out wide instead, seemed to freeze Jota out to the point he looked like he didn’t really he want to be here.
Who could blame him? At that point, it seemed like half the squad shared the same sentiment.
March 2018 – enter Garry Monk. A change in formation, in players and most importantly a change in work ethic meant that a number of players were given renewed confidence in both themselves and the club they were playing for. Jutkiewicz, Adams, newcomer Harding, Morrison and of course Jota himself were granted another chance to start fresh in the eyes of the fans and they thankfully took it.
Monk’s system of team pressing and two holding midfielders meant that wingers Jota and Maghoma were allowed more space to do what they made for – creating havoc for the opposition’s defence. The system worked as Blues went on to win 5 of their last ten games, with Jota playing a large part in the revival of the team – scoring three goals and getting two assists.
Now we find ourselves over halfway into Monk’s first full season at the Blues – with Jota being a consistent member of the boss’ almost never-changing starting 11.
Despite the fact that Jota seems settled at the club, his purchase price and rumoured heavy wages still beg the question; is he worth it?
Setting aside the dismal 17/18 season for almost all of the players involved, if we compare Jota’s wonderous second-half season Brentford to now, there’s an alarming lack of goal-getting. In just 5 months after returning from his year-long loan to SD Eibar, the winger had bagged 12 goals and 5 assists.
Compare that to 6 months into this season and while Jota has managed the same amount of assists, only 1 goal in 25 games could be an indicator of the lacking aspect of his game – the finish.
Of course, it’s not as if we’ve needed Jota to be in free-scoring form what with Juke and Adams’ fine form in front of goal – but both St Andrew’s regulars and away game-goers would be hard pressed to deny his lack of end product.
Every time Jota receives the ball there’s this spark of excitement as Bluenoses wait with bated breath to see what he’ll do. There is no denying his technical game far surpasses anyone else in the squad, his quick feet often a marvel to watch and something that can really get the St. Andrew’s crowd going. But far too often we’ve seen him cut inside on his favoured left foot and release a half-hearted shot or cross that finds its way to the goalkeeper in no hurry.
The potential is there and there’s so much of it that it might just warrant the hefty price we paid for the Spaniard – his assist against Norwich last week was a rare moment where the previously mentioned move turned into a beautiful defence-opening pass that set up Che for his 14th of the season – but untapped potential remains core to the existence of Jota at Birmingham city.
This core sees him remain in that limbo, undoubtedly a star in the side – but a star that everyone knows could shine a little harder.
That said, there are plenty of games left in the season and perhaps in Garry Monk’s eyes, Jota is doing exactly what he wants in being a nuisance to the opposition. With his price tag forever looming over him, it remains a prominent question as to whether Jota has proved his worth at Blues – is this what we paid for? Or are we not even there yet?