Uruguayan forward Darwin Nuñez is coming into his own at Liverpool after a somewhat shaky start. After being banned for three games as a result of a foul on Joachim Andersen back in August, there were some doubts about Nuñez’s ability to perform on the big stage.
Reportedly, boss Jurgen Klopp and assistant manager Pep Lijnders recently sat Nuñez down for a chat about his performance. They were keen to reassure him that his progress was good following his move from Benfica, and that he had no need to worry about a lack of game time.
Nuñez himself admitted to feeling concerned about making six goalless appearances for Liverpool, but the tides are quickly turning for the centre-forward.
A controversial character
After his ropey start, some fans were slightly concerned about Nuñez’s ability to keep a cool head on the pitch. That said, his flare of passion is certainly exciting; anything that could possibly inject a spark into Liverpool’s dull start to the season is welcome.
Even recently, Nuñez has made some costly mistakes. In the team’s 1-0 win against title defenders Manchester City, Nuñez came on after 72 minutes with an abundance of energy. However, despite putting himself in perfect position to square the ball to Salah and put Liverpool into a more comfortable 2-0 lead, the forward attempted to take his own shot from outside the box.
It went wide.
Thankfully, the team managed to keep City at bay and defend a clean sheet, ensuring Virgil van Dijk’s record of no losses at Anfield went untarnished. This does not, however, excuse the wasteful opportunity from Nuñez.
Nevertheless, Liverpool fans were quick to forgive, and he remains a firm favourite in their hearts.
Agent of chaos and unpredictability
Following a poor run of matches, Klopp told press that Liverpool had to be “more unpredictable” to stop teams scoring against their foreseeable defensive strategies. What the boss had in mind was switching up the formation, but perhaps the act of utilizing Nuñez in itself makes Liverpool a much more unpredictable force.
Last week’s game against Manchester City might have highlighted an obvious flaw in his decision-making, and yet it’s still easy to see the positive influence he had on the game. His energy and passion are a lit match that can ignite the fire for other players on the pitch. Not only that, but his unpredictability makes him difficult to defend against.
So far, Nuñez has played 573 minutes across all competitions, marking his appearances with five goals and an assist. That is one goal involvement every 96 minutes. Comparisons with City’s Gabriel Jesus abound, but the Brazilian has achieved one less goal in almost double the game time.
Nuñez is a threat, a force majeure on the pitch in that he’s predictably unpredictable. The Kop loves it. TikTok and Twitter comment sections compare him to a young Suarez, noting that he’s rough around the edges but with an enormous amount of potential. Only time will tell.
Liverpool’s growing injury list includes Jota and Diaz, which means the pressure for Nuñez to step up to the plate is mounting. The Uruguayan national missed his team’s trip to Nottingham Forest this weekend due to a hamstring issue, which the club insists is minor but is worrying, nonetheless. There will forever be a big question mark over the loss about whether Nuñez could have turned it around for the Reds.
Perhaps the frequent incidence of injuries has Klopp nervous, and resting the forward could pay off in the long run.
Diaz and Jota are set to be absent for a long time, so Nuñez’s involvement is now more crucial than ever. The data shows that he can compete with the best of them when it comes to goal involvement, and the fans’ throbbing excitement is already growing with regards to his passion and commitment for the team.
His time will come
For Nuñez, there have already been multiple roadblocks. For one, the red card knocked his confidence and gave him concerns about game time. To further his anxieties, there is a language barrier that has not yet been overcome, with Spanish-speaking Lijnders having to translate for him during team meetings.
Slowly, things look to be changing. After the Arsenal match, in which Nuñez scored to soften the blow of a tough loss, Klopp said, “He’s a massive talent […] He has arrived, 100 per cent.” He is beginning to hit his stride and find good form, which will only serve to boost his confidence.
Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson has also noted in the press that fellow South Americans, including himself, Fabinho, and Firmino, along with Spaniards Adrian and Thiago, have gone out of their way to help Nuñez settle in. As his English improves, his performance will likely do so, too.
Despite the current language barrier, it’s almost certain that Darwin Nuñez will feel the excitement around him. Anfield has embraced him with open arms, and even with a few bumps in the road, it’s almost guaranteed he will go down favourably in the history books.