Bocsak: Liverpool’s New ‘Most Important’ Player

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Darwin Nunez – Liverpool’s Saviour

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. As the ball looped up in the air from Alexis Mac Allister’s boot, Darwin Nunez knew where it was heading next – into the back of the net. Surrounded by two Forest defenders, he rose the highest and got the perfect touch on the ball to guide it past Matz Sels in the Forest goal.

The quality of Nunez’s finish may have been undermined by the gravity of the moment. But make no mistake about it – this was a very difficult header to execute. Especially, the way he was challenged by two defenders, and how he had his back to the goal. This was the kind of finish only elite forwards execute. And ig was yet more proof that Nunez is an elite forward. As Luis Suarez said after Inter Miami’s game on Saturday, Nunez is ‘one of the best strikers in the world.’

The numbers will prove that. They will also indicate that Nunez may just be Liverpool’s most important player.

Photo: IMAGO

Misconceptions – Darwin Nunez

Since Nunez has arrived in the Premier League, he’s often received the label of being a ‘bad’ finisher. During his first season at the club, there were definitely moments which warranted that label.

However, judging him purely on his second campaign at Liverpool, that label no longer stands true.

Nunez hasn’t been a bad finisher at all. In fact for club and country this season, he has actually overperformed his expected goals ratio for example. In total Nunez has 19 goals for club and country this season as per FBref. However, Nunez’s expected goals return total for the season is 16.5 xG. That means he is overperforming his expected goals total by 2.5 goals. Even on that stat alone that definitely isn’t the marker of a bad finisher.

Nunez also gets the most shots on target for Liverpool in all competitions this season (2.06 per 90). Looking at his shot-on-target percentage Nunez’s average of 42.4% is actually the same as Diogo Jota, who is regarded as a clinical finisher for Liverpool. It’s also not much lower than Mohamed Salah at 43.6%, and not much behind Erling Haaland at 45.1% for Manchester City this season.

Darwin Nunez – Unlucky Finishing?

Diving deeper into the statistics, Nunez may missed a lot of big chances for Liverpool (21 in total which is the highest for the Reds by a mile – Mohamed Salah comes second with nine) however, that’s just the nature of number nines in today’s game. For context, Erling Haaland has actually missed more big chances (24) than Nunez in the Premier League this season, and Ollie Watkins is also not far away (18) from the Uruguayan.

Strikers are never going to have a 100% record. Chances will be missed, especially in a high intensity league like the Premier League where the game is played so fast, and where the margin for error is so miniscule.

But that doesn’t make Nunez a bad finisher. It just makes him a human being. You can also make a case for him being quite unlucky with some of his finishing. He’s hit the woodwork nine times in the Premier League this season, which more than double of the player in second place behind him – Ollie Watkins with four.

If some of those woodwork shots were just angled a few inches differently – than Nunez could well be competing for the golden boot in the Premier League this season.

Photo by IMAGO

Nunez – One of Liverpool’s Most Important Players

The best thing about Nunez is that he is a constant goal threat. He just runs and runs at the opponent and gets himself into shooting opportunities.

In the Premier League he has averaged the most shots this season with 4.18 per 90, much more than Erling Haaland in second place, who has 3.61 per 90.

Three of Nunez’s shots have also led to another player scoring from the rebound for Liverpool this season – which is the most for the Reds. All together 15 of his shots have led to another shooting opportunity for one of his teammates as well – again the highest for Liverpool this season with Mohamed Salah second (11). So even when he doesn’t score, his shots can still be valuable and lead to more shots or even goals.

On top of that he also contributes with chances from open play. Only Mohamed Salah (12) has contributed with more live ball passes to Liverpool goals this season than Nunez (11).

Simply put he is a major threat. It’s not a surprise he has averaged a goal or assist every 87 minutes in all competitions for Liverpool.

Nunez The Match-Winner

But it’s not just that he is a threat, it’s also that Nunez is a match-winner. So far this season he has already scored six match-winning goals for Liverpool as per Transfermarkt. These are defined as goals that put the team ahead. Nunez’s six match winning goals is the highest for Liverpool in all competitions this season, and actually double that of Mohamed Salah’s (3) and triple that of Diogo Jota’s (2) return.

Five of Nunez’s match-winning goals have come in the Premier League, which is impressively 50% of his goals in the league this season. It’s also the joint highest alongside Erling Haaland and Ollie Watkins.

And they attribute to 15 points in total for Liverpool, which is close to 24% of Liverpool’s total points tally of 63.

It’s important to mention the timing of those goals. While Watkins and Haaland are joint with Nunez, neither have scored match-winning goals in stoppage time. Nunez on the other hand can now boast two match winning goals having netted in the 93rd minute against Newcastle United, and in the 99th minute against Nottingham over the weekend.

Given the numbers it’s difficult to argue against the Uruguayan being Liverpool’s most important player this season. Nunez has simply been indispensable to Liverpool’s success. His goal against Nottingham was another reminder.

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