Andrew Beasley: ‘Non-sensical’ Nunez vs Carroll Comparison

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The Enigma of Football Chants: From Humor to Inspiration

Football chants can be the funniest, catchiest songs you’ll ever hear. They can lodge themselves in your brain and have you moving more than most pop songs. Granted, some take inspiration from chart hits – Luis Suárez just couldn’t get enough – or maybe children’s songs – Fernando Torres’ goals often went in two by two – and sometimes classical music is the source of inspiration. They can come from anywhere, and often nobody can say for certain how they came to be.

Photo by IMAGO

Fine Line: Celebratory vs Derogatory Chants

They’re not all great, though. As a general rule, if a set of fans are signing about their team or one of their players, the chant is probably good, but if it’s one aimed at the opposition then it won’t be. Leaving aside the miserable horror of tragedy chanting, one of the worst examples of ‘banter’ (*shudder*) currently follows Darwin Núñez up and down the country.

“Shit Andy Carroll, you’re just a shit Andy Carroll… shit Andy Carroll,” sung to the tune of The Sandpipers’ 1966 song Guantanamera, as you don’t need telling, obviously.

It’s a laughably poor chant on every level. For starters, it would be remarkable if Núñez had much of a clue as to who Carroll is. His last appearance for the Reds occurred a couple of months after Darwin’s 13th birthday and his career only went downhill from there. “Haha, you’re a worse version of this player you’ve never even heard of, mate.” Please.

Núñez vs Carroll: Statistical Comparison

The other problem is that while the intent is obviously sarcastic, Carroll would dream of being so good that Núñez performed like a shit version of the not-so-divine ponytail. The former Newcastle man made 15 goal contributions in his 58 appearance Liverpool career (per LFC History); Darwin has that many in his last 25 games (in which he’s played the equivalent of just under 17 full matches).

The Uruguayan’s second goal at Bournemouth on Sunday took him to a total of 10 for the season. Núñez is also the Reds’ top assist provider in 2023/24, and has become the first player at any Premier League club to hit double figures for goals both scored and set up this season.

That’s no mean feat and should not be underestimated. There’s sadly no easy way to check for all competitions, but there have only been 68 instances of a player getting at least 10 in both the goals and assists columns in the 31 previous Premier League campaigns.

Darwin became only the 10th player to do so for Liverpool in that time frame and when cups are taken into consideration (again, hat tip to LFC History). Sadio Mané, Michael Owen and Luis Suárez are among the players who only did it once, while Roberto Firmino achieved the feat twice.

Assuming Mohamed Salah gets two more assists in 2023/24 then he will join Steven Gerrard at the top of the rankings having enjoyed six such seasons, with 2020/21 the only time he missed out. Strangely, Carroll’s name is missing from the list entirely.

Finishing Skills of Núñez: Detailed Analysis

One area in which it is fair to criticise Núñez is his finishing, particularly with Opta-defined big chances (which are opportunities where it’s reasonable to expect the attacker to score). Every other senior forward at the club since 2018/19 has a conversion rate for these golden opportunities somewhere in the 40s, from Diogo Jota at 41 per cent, through Cody Gakpo (43), Luis Díaz (44), Firmino, Mané (both 45) and Salah (49). Darwin has turned just 26 per cent of his big chances into goals, and his figure was worse before converting two from two on Sunday.

But just as there’s always a tweet to prove the hypocrisy of idiots, there’s always a stat in football. Caroll had 16 big chances in his one full season at Liverpool (2011/12), putting just three of them away to record a conversion rate of 19 per cent. That’s – very surprisingly – an identical record to Ollie Watkins in 2023/24, but there have only been six instances in the last 13 Premier League seasons of a player having at least as many big chances and converting a lower proportion of them when penalties are excluded.

Darwin has been thwarted by the barest of all margins on a regular basis. He has struck the woodwork six times in all competitions from big chances alone, never mind his lesser value shots which have hit the frame of the goal. Analytics legend Mark Taylor recently noted this on X:

A glance at Darwin’s shot map for the league this season highlights the point too. Look at where six of the seven goals are: in the corners. If you’re aiming a shot there, the occasional woodwork clunk is par for the course.

Look too at the xG data on FotMob. It shows that there are nine players who have amassed at least eight expected goals in the Premier League this season, but of those that have only two have added more than 0.2 value with their finishing, as per the xG on Target model. Erling Haaland hasn’t (-1.3), but Darwin Núñez has (+2.6).

Financial Considerations: Núñez vs Carroll

The final cherry on the cake is a financial one. Per Paul Tomkins and Graeme Riley’s Transfer Price Index, the Reds spent just under £149m in 2023/24 money on Carroll in 2011. Darwin might prove to be Liverpool’s record signing, but with inflation applied he doesn’t come close to the cost of a previous incumbent of the number nine shirt.

The comparison is non-sensical and Kopites have always known it. With Nunez’ two goals at Bournemouth, it’s time for rival fans to see sense and consign a dull chant to history.

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