Darwin Núñez: More Than Just Goals
The national media will have you believe that Darwin Nunez is one of the poorest forwards in the Premier League at the moment, however that simply isn’t the case.
Whilst being slammed for the amount of big chances that he misses, the Uruguayan has become so much more than a goalscorer in his second season for the Reds.
Nunez has instead become a huge creative force under Klopp, providing immense link-up play alongside the other forwards at the club.
The 24-year-old has also featured in more games (30) than any other Liverpool player this season, with Mo Salah, Cody Gakpo, Joe Gomez and Harvey Elliott all making 27 appearances.
This is a huge symbol of the importance of Nunez in Klopp’s plans for both the future and the present.
Crunching the Numbers:
In terms of non-penalty goal contributions in the Premier League this season, Nunez sits in second place with a goal contribution every 92 minutes. (As stated by @BenBocsak).
Only Diogo Jota averages more, with a goal contribution every 89.9 minutes.
Across all competitions for Liverpool this season, only Mohamed Salah has more direct goal contributions than Nunez.
The Egyptian King sits some way ahead on 27 total goal contributions, whilst Darwin Nunez sits on an impressive 18 goal contributions.
However, a key metric that isn’t being associated with Nunez’ name enough is the amount of assists he is providing.
Nunez has provided more assists than any other Liverpool player this season, with 10 assists across all competitions.
Both Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold sit on nine assists, before a massive drop off to Curtis Jones and Kostas Tsimikas on three.
The Uruguayan also sits in the 88th percentile amongst Premier League forwards in terms of shot-creating actions, with 3.27 per 90 minutes.
On top of that, he sits in the 92nd percentile for goal-creating actions amongst Premier League forwards, with 0.58 per 90 minutes.
How Nunez’ Versatility Could Become Crucial:
With the absence of Mohamed Salah, Klopp seems to be trying a number of different options on that right-hand side.
Nunez became the latest to operate out wide against Fulham in the Carabao Cup Semi-Final, joining the likes of Harvey Elliott, Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo who have all been trialed in recent weeks.
It’s no coincidence that most of Nunez’ impressive recent performances have come in games where he has featured in a wide position.
Five of Nunez’s last six goal contributions have come in games where he has been deployed in a wider position.
In contrast, he has just two goal contributions in the past ten games in which he has played mostly as a number nine.
The Impact vs Fulham:
It’s hard to argue that the introduction of Darwin Nunez from the bench was a key reason behind Liverpool coming out victorious against Fulham.
According to Opta: “Despite only coming on in the 56th minute, Darwin Nunez had the highest xG (0.76), the most touches in the opposition box (12), completed the most dribbles (3) and had the joint most shots (4) of any Liverpool player, as well as assisting both goals. Exuberance.”
All that was achieved, whilst being deployed in the half space between the centre forward and the wingers.
Cody Gakpo and Luis Diaz occupied the wings, with Diogo Jota remaining down the middle.
This left loads of space for Nunez to exploit between the wingers and Jota, which is where he was causing Marco Silva’s side the most problems.
I think the best way for Nunez to keep improving, is to use his versatility as much as possible.
As much as he has a lot of traits that you would want in a number nine, his play on the ball has become massively underrated and could cause plenty of problems.