Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez Analyzed by Alan Shearer: Pace, Power, Fouls

Attackers care about mistakes, but the time you worry and the time you lose sleep is the time opportunities don’t come. Big moments can drag on and play back in your mind – nothing stays with you like a deflected penalty – but they’re rarely symptoms of illness in your game. That’s why I have a little bit of a worry about Darwin Nunez and his form at Liverpool because his ability is obvious and the rest he can learn. If he wants to get better, he will.

No one has wasted more chances in the Premier League this season (15 according to Opta) than Nunez. Put that alongside the initial transfer fee of £64m ($77.6m), and compare his 10 goals in all competitions to Erling Haaland’s 27 for Manchester City, factoring in the Norwegian’s cheaper cost and Liverpool’s struggles in the Premier League, as well as those ruthless chants. A fan of the opposition about being “just like Andy Carroll,” doesn’t sound cool, does it?

However, most of this is grossly unfair. Nunez is a modern striker of the same type as Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane rather than a traditional centre-forward, and he’s certainly not as obsessed with scoring goals as Haaland (Which is meant as the sincerest compliment). But then, who is he?

It wasn’t so long ago that a goal every other game was considered a good return for most players, and Haaland, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may have changed the way we look at that. But they are the extremes, not the norm. Not everyone can do that.

Harry Kane has scored 17 goals for Tottenham Hotspur this season and is barely mentioned because Haaland slashed through Premier League defences, while Nunez’s total of 10 goals in 23 appearances for Liverpool is seen through the prism of discomfort. Jurgen Klopp’s team was weak defensivelyBut their big problem is they keep playing a fine line without the energy to press in midfield and I don’t see Nunez as a major factor in that.

And 10 goals is not a bad indicator. In the Premier League era, only Robbie Fowler, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge, Salah and Diogo Jota have made it to Liverpool sooner.

Digging deeper into those 15 “big” bugs paints a more accurate picture – eight of them were on target and two hit the woodwork. Speak to the bigwigs at Liverpool and they’ll tell you how much they love his movement, his pace and his power and how Nunez is always coming back for more. There was that An early stupid moment When he was sent off against Crystal Palace it may have affected his confidence, but the fans stuck with him and that tells his own story.

Mark Curry asked, Athletic Data Analyst, to crunch the numbers and then watch some clips with me, to see if they supported my theories. Because I like a lot of what I’ve seen with Nunez, who’s still only 23, a player of incredible talent who might not be a natural finisher. It’s obvious – starkly – that the Uruguay international needs more restraint in front of goal, but I don’t see much of a problem there.

What do I mean by natural paint? It is when you are comfortable in the situations you are in, when there is no relief. You’re not flustered, overexcited, wide-eyed, or looking like you’re thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” Nunez has it all. He has a lightning pace, which defenders hate, he gets into good spaces and can finish well. When the ball comes to him quickly he is a killer. It is when he has time to think about it; This is when things don’t go well. He grabs the ball and lunges it.

To go back to the beginning, if Nunez wasn’t getting good chances regularly I would be scared for him and Liverpool, but he is. As you can see below, his involvement in Liverpool’s shots and chances creation are not only the highest for his team but the highest of any player in the Premier League to date. This tells you that he is engaged, decisive, and willing.

Converting those opportunities is a matter of iterating on the training ground (we shouldn’t forget the relative lack of experience in terms of league starts), feeling it happen in matches, enjoying it, getting used to it, and then doing it again. Work hard, and with a bit of cool, hitting 20 to 25 goals a season shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re an explorer who looks at some of his goals and you never see him miss out on the opportunities he has, then you’d think this guy is incredible. He has great variation in his goals – scoring with his right foot, left foot, and some great heading too, against West Ham United (in the Premier League) and Ajax (in the Champions League).

Let’s start by looking at his latest goals against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup. What is notable is that he actually won the header in his own half from a throw-in. The key to this goal is where it begins and where it ends.

If you watch his movement while the attack is in progress, he is actually pointing where he wants to go.

If he didn’t want to score and wanted to hide, he wouldn’t do it or point where he wanted Trent Alexander-Arnold to put him.

As he pulls away, the defender can’t keep up. It’s a great finish – whether it’s off his leg or not. It’s a silly ball from Trent, but it tells me that – while people think he lacks faith – he’s keen to score. This may sound obvious, but it means he’s not hiding, not disguising himself in anything or trying to play it safe.

It’s a similar situation he scored from in the Premier League against Southampton. If you watch his movement, he steps a yard and a half to his right to create space and keep himself on his side.

Like I always say, it’s one round for the cannons and one for you. It’s a great run because the defender really comes with it, and that’s exactly what he wants.

He created all that space himself – you count on the delivery, but he’s like a Wolves goal on his end with that left foot.

People talk about his connection to the ball with his finishing, but I wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t bother me one iota how the ball got in—whether it was swinging off my feet, or my ass, or my leg, or whatever.

The most important thing is that you’re there, and then it’s about getting a connection through it — get it on the back of the network.

The positive thing is that he doesn’t care if he makes a mistake, but there are things he can work on.

The most notable thing is that he needs to keep his head up when he has more time to think about shooting him. See this example below, where he stands behind the Aston Villa defence.

With his speed, I would have expected him to pass Ezri Konsa here. He prefers his right foot, and with that next touch, he can pass because he’s already a yard in front of Konsa. If he passes through it to open the field (yellow arrow), he is in the middle of the goal rather than being forced to stand with his left foot (white arrow).

If he passed through Konsa, he would have more options. Konsa can’t bring him down or he’ll be kicked out. Instead, he pulls the ball wide…

…just like he did against Brentford…

…and an almost identical try against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup.

This is where you just have to keep your cool. Improving this simply comes down to time and sweat in training. I used to have sessions where I would be in front of a defender and he would chase me, and I would practice hitting the ball into the corner of the net.

The more you get into these situations, the happier you will feel about your surroundings and the weight of the situation. That’s part of his problem when he’s one-on-one — he never really seems comfortable. The more you practice, the better you will get.

Even looking at Liverpool’s winning goal against Leicester recently, in the build-up to Wout Faes’ own goal, it’s a clever finish from Nunez to go past the keeper and it’s really bad luck to hit the post.

They get the point anyway but if you return a break there is probably a better resolution available. With the pace the goalkeeper is, Núñez had the option to roll around to the left side (shown in yellow), which I think would have been easier to do.

It’s important to think about Nunez’s overall game, not just his finish. His pace is intimidating and when he has turf to hit – especially in that left channel – there aren’t many defenders going to catch him.

You could see that in the same Leicester game, where Weiss probably feels he has it covered.

But it’s great from Nunez as he gets past Weiss at a pace…

…to get to the byline and cut it down for Salah.

It is not a problem for him to be on the left side as he is more than happy to use his left foot, which will only be of great benefit to him.

Even the best, like Salah, can swallow it wide! But Nunez found it really good.

It was a great game against Leicester, but can Nunez improve his decision-making on a wider scale? Of course.

There have been some examples this season where he has held the ball for far too long when he should have released it – the most obvious example being against Manchester City earlier this season.

With Liverpool broken they have three players against one to finish and it is clear what Nunez must do.

You just have to raise your head. This is not a difficult pass for Salah and he should do it (yellow arrow).

Instead, he shoots with players around him and the attack breaks down.

Having greater awareness of the options available is important, but he has to raise his head and see the pass. He’s clearly made up his mind that he’s shooting, but you need to be aware of the situation you’re in and your surroundings

It’s easy to forget that Nunez only saw two seasons in Europe’s top flight before moving to Liverpool. Before joining Benfica in 2020, his only taste of football outside of South America was Spanish club Segunda of Almeria.

The point is, he has plenty of time to become the world-class striker that all his attributes indicate he can be and he has plenty of knowledgeable people at Liverpool to help him get there, including the fans who continue to support him.

For now, it’s about the training field, getting ahead, practicing relentlessly, finding comfort in that drudgery and honing those skills. He will get there.

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