Darwin Nunez arrived at Liverpool last Summer to much fan fare and a hefty price tag to boot. After a year of banging in goals for fun at Benfica and destroying some pretty impressive competition in the Champions League, it’s fair to say excitement was high. I think many saw him as our version of Lewandowksi. I know I did and I’m rarely incorrect. Please don’t look for any past posts of mine.
So let’s analyse his first year at Liverpool. Is it fair to ask the question, “Where did it all go wrong? ” based on the lofty expectations at the start of the season. On the face of it, 14 goals and 4 assists is not that poor of a return for a first season. Not great for sure, but we could call it a transition season for him to a new team. In addition, he missed some absolute sitters. However, I believe Nunez has a quality shot and I’m quite sure that in another season, he puts far more of those chances away. Shooting is not where it’s gone wrong this season for me.
So what’s the issue? Why is Gakpo looking like our number 9 of the future and Nunez looking like our backup winger?
For me, Nunez has spent this season simply trying to be someone he isn’t. Nunez is not Mane. He is not Salah or Mbappe. One of his worst attributes is ‘take ons’. I’m not a stats man, but we lose the ball an awful lot with him taking players on. When there’s open space, by all means burn the man down the wing, but when the space is tight, he really should be looking for a pass more often than not. I would never say “never take someone on”.
Like Klopp says, you need to be cheeky once in a while. But nine times out of ten, Nunez should do the simple thing. Nunez is superb at making runs in behind. ‘One-Twos’ should be his bread and butter. Get the ball, hold it, pass it simple and run in behind. It may be as simple as you like, but with his pace and power, it won’t matter. It would be near impossible to stop. I wouldn’t overkill training at taking people on for him. I would be drilling into him to keep it simple more often than not. Play to his strengths of power, pace and believe it or not, strong finishing.
I said ‘simple’ 50 times in that last paragraph and I truly think that’s the key change he needs to make to unlock his world class ability. Keep it simple. I would also be encouraging him to continue shooting often. His shot is wicked, it just hasn’t found the target often enough yet. But it will.
So, keep it simple is the first thing to unlock his world class ability, what else does he need to do to succeed at Liverpool? This one might take a lot more work on his part, but I think he has the fight to learn it. “The ticket into this team is counterpressing” – Klopp’s words. He needs to get better at pressing. I think he has it in him.
First he needs to learn English competently. This is needed in many facets of a team game. You have to be able to communicate with your manager, coaches and team-mates. But that centre forward position is key to the press. He needs to understand Klopp’s instructions to a tee with counterpressing and execute them. He has the speed, he puts his foot in. This should not be a weakness of his game but it is. It might be communication. The other issue might be fitness as he tends to gas out. So if he could communicate better with Klopp on the pressing requirements and improve his fitness, I’m sure he can become excellent in this area.
So Nunez or Gakpo for starting CF next season? Gakpo right now is the better player but if Nunez takes on the 2 points above of, ‘keep it simple’ and ‘press like a machine’, then Nunez would be my choice all day long. I believe he is within touching distance of being a world class player.
And remember, I’m never wrong.
Davey Sulls has been proven wrong on multiple occasions. In fact, he hardly gets anything right. When he was baby, he was put in a basket with no seat belt in the back seat of a car. The good old days, I think they were called. The car came to a sudden halt and he fell out and rolled under the front seat, like some soda bottle – True story. Clearly his brain was affected. He now writes disclaimers in the third person.
Written by Davey Sulls June 01 2023 10:17:13