Darwin Núñez Only Represents Liverpool’s Frustrations

For the past five months or so, two strikers have been competing at Liverpool. One of them is a Hanna-Barbera character. His boots are two sizes too big. His sudden movements in and around the penalty area – a stretch of grass that seems to alternately turn to ice or quicksand under his feet – are recorded by the circus music of an American Fotoplayer. It carries a passing resemblance to Andy Carroll. He has a bad habit of galloping past everyone and then being surprised at how much space he’s found and generally plays his position as if you’re getting partial credit for hitting the uprights behind the net.

The other of the two strikers literally hit stride when he scored in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Wolves in the FA Cup last weekend. He now has 10 goals in all competitions this season, which would make him the team’s second top scorer. It does almost all the things it needs to do. It runs constantly, and you can almost never get away with saying it had no effect on the race. He is the type of enterprising, brand new player that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp seems to like. He often gets into the last defender’s blind spot, making himself a nuisance for the backline, and does very well when he receives decent service. When the play is not building as well from the back or as quickly as Liverpool would like, he will drop inside and drive the ball forward himself.

The curious thing here is that these strikers both wear the no. 27 jersey, and he is the same 23-year-old man. Darwin Nunez arrived from Benfica in the summer for £85m after a season in which he quadrupled the previous season’s Primeira Liga goals (from six to 26) and helped the Portuguese side push Liverpool to the brink of relegation. a 10-goal Champions League thriller. This summer it looked like Núñez had joined the perennial second-best team in England, a team that had just come within minutes of the Quadruple – something no English team has ever done yet. But during this year’s campaign, Liverpool began to look like a team trying to stay relevant. They are 16 points adrift of Premier League leaders Arsenal, Manchester City’s usual rivals they don’t mind, and are just limping into the FA Cup third round against a second-to-last team.

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In a show of strength and presence following last week’s deflating 3-1 Premier League defeat by Brenford, Klopp fielded a strong squad in a bid to retain at least one of Liverpool’s trophies from last season. New Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui even complained beforehand that his side would have two fewer days to prepare for the game – a classic tactic to lower expectations when facing a team you clearly expect to lose. But then Wolves didn’t lose. In the 26th minute, Liverpool suddenly looked similar Connection lost; Wolves’ first goal through Goncalo Guedes was gifted to him by a dazed Alisson who had stroked the ball straight into the striker’s path. This came as a result of the normally safe Thiago Alacantra trying some lazy stepovers on the edge of his box.

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But back to Núñez, who just minutes earlier had attempted an outrageous overhead kick off a deflected ball off the foot of a Wolves defender, who had brought something down between a Mohamed Salah pass or shot. An opportunity out of absolutely nothing. There is a temptation for the neutral viewer to suggest that, had this come down to it – a cat-like display of athleticism, which Núñez is capable of but has yet to use enough for Liverpool, might have been the start of something special for Uruguayan. Some kind of unstoppable snowball momentum that eventually results in “world class” and “club legend” status. Until then, according to the netizens, it’s rubbish.

It’s no fault of his that he arrived in the Premier League at the same time as Erling Haaland, who has scored 21 league goals this season for Liverpool’s north-west rivals. It’s hard to ignore that, by contrast, Núñez leads the league by some distance in “missed big chances” per 90 minutes. Liverpool’s basic defense of this stat is this to miss great opportunities, one must first get into dangerous positions, which is the kind of creative accounting that follows the Uruguayan who, again, is 23 years old. The sense of imperfection about Núñez easily shifts to the promise of potential when you consider how close he is to being the ideal big man you need in a title push straight out of a soda commercial. He’s broad-shouldered, a shade under 6ft, religiously devoted to the press and has all the requisite tattoos. He causes the most havoc in the channel but is also capable of winning a header and bringing the more resourceful elements of Liverpool’s midfield into play.

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This kind of haggling over Núñez’s ability will likely continue until he scores five goals against Real Madrid. Klopp claims he sees “a lot of similarities” between the Uruguayan and Robert Lewandowski, who he managed at Dortmund when Lewandowski pulled off the same feat. Of course, the comparison was to show how far Núñez has to go: “We had shoots where one didn’t finish.”

There are bigger reasons for concern at Liverpool, specifically this defence: when well organized and impregnable, they have already conceded almost as many goals in the Premier League as they did all of last season, and centre-back Virgil van Dijk is out. a significant hamstring injury. Without stability at the back, how can Liverpool throw everything else forward and put teams to the sword like they used to?

This makes moments of perfect synergy like Núñez’s FA Cup goal in the 45th minute all the more frustrating. At the wrong distance, Trent Alexander-Arnold ran into space on the right. Núñez took off, raising his hand for a pass to the center circle, bursting past the Wolves defenders. Alexander-Arnold whipped in a perfect cross early on, beating every defender, catching the keeper in no time. Without breaking stride, Núñez casually rolled the cross off his shin into the far corner.

He remained anonymous in the second half.


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