Darwin Nunez has faced plenty of criticism after his £85m move to Liverpool but the goals are now starting to flow… the striker could be a dangerous weapon for Uruguay at the World Cup in Qatar
- Darwin Nunez has scored three times in seven league appearances for Liverpool
- The centre-forward is expected to go to the World Cup this winter with Uruguay
- The 23-year-old has one of the best shots-per-game ratios in the league
- However, statistics show Nunez has struggled to consistently find the net
- Can the World Cup help him find his feet while shadowing Liverpool icon Suarez?
- Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates
Moving to the Premier League is a tough task for any professional footballer, but for strikers, it is perhaps harder than any other position on the field.
It can be easy to tell the difference between a good striker and an average one by looking at how many goals they’re scoring.
It must be noted that modern strikers do make other contributions to the team, namely pass completions or distance covered in the ‘press’, but finding the back of the net is a centre-forward’s first responsibility and a barometer by which they are measured.
Darwin Nunez (pictured) joined Liverpool during the summer for a record fee of £85m
The forward has scored three times in seven Premier League appearances for the Reds
It goes without saying, that the more a centre-forward is scoring, then arguably the better they are and the higher their value will be.
Darwin Nunez is a player who has attracted a lot of the spotlight this season, mostly because of the landmark fee Liverpool paid to bring him to Anfield.
Arriving on Merseyside in July for a club record £85m, eclipsing the amount they paid for Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool acted quickly to replace the vacant position in their forward line left by Sadio Mane.
Like Mane, Nunez is a very intelligent player and has demonstrated he can add value to Klopp’s team with his sharp movement, physicality and ability to drag players out of position.
Perhaps his biggest selling point, which may have been a big factor in why Klopp brought him to the Premier League, was his goalscoring record with his former club, Benfica.
Nunez dazzled at Anfield last season, scoring against Liverpool in the Champions League
The Uruguayan scored an impressive 34 goals in 41 games across all competitions last season
Last season, the 23-year-old racked up an impressive 34 goals in 41 games across all competitions, scoring 26 times in the Primeira Liga, yielding three hat-tricks in the process.
His excellent form continued into Europe, with the forward finding the back of the net six times to help Benfica reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Nunez scored twice in both of Benfica’s quarter final matches against Liverpool, putting on an excellent display full of pace and skill.
It was those performances that Klopp said made him ‘fall in love’ with the 25-year-old, kick-starting their efforts to bring him to the club.
Cutting it in the top-flight
Following his arrival, many were excited to see what Nunez would be able to deliver in the Premier League.
But videos of him in pre-season training soon started to circulate online, with some showing him scoring wonder-goals, while others showed him fluffing his lines and misplacing shots, drawing some criticism from fans.
Jurgen Klopp (left) ‘fell in love’ with how Nunez played after watching him at Anfield
Nunez has also scored once in the Champions League this season during a game vs Rangers
He has made a bright start to life in the red jersey with a return of three goals in seven games so far; scoring on his club debut in the Community Shield and again on his league debut during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw to Fulham in August.
Things didn’t quite go to plan from there and during his second Premier League game against Crystal Palace, the Uruguayan was sent-off for head butting Joachim Andersen and was subsequently suspended for three matches.
All things considered, his first couple of months in the Premier League do indicate that Liverpool have a special talent on their hands and, for Klopp, it’s now about how he harnesses the Uruguayan’s undoubted ability.
What can he add to his game?
Nunez currently ranks third in the Premier League for shots per 90 minutes, sitting behind Erling Haaland and Aleksander Mitrovic, with a shooting ratio of four attempts per match.
That can be measured against his goals per game ratio, which sits at a lowly 0.79 goals-per-match, with Nunez likely to score just 13 percent of the time.
His shooting accuracy also falls below most of the league’s top strikers, with the 6ft 1in forward having a 43 percent shooting accuracy, which is less than the likes of established Premier League players such as Son Heung-min (60 per cent), Martin Odegaard (71 per cent) and Leandro Trossard (69 per cent).
Nunez also missed a clear scoring opportunity during Liverpool’s 3-0 Champions League win over Ajax earlier this week, but he made up for the miss with a well-taken goal after half-time.
Nunez currently ranks third in the Premier League standings for shots per 90 minutes
Liverpool legend Luis Suarez scored four times in his first 13 league appearances for the Reds
Ultimately, finding the back of the net is key for Nunez going forward, but patience is needed, in the same way as patience was also needed with his compatriot, Luis Suarez, when he joined Liverpool in 2011.
Like Nunez, life at Anfield didn’t get off to the most promising start for Suarez, with the former Barcelona striker scoring just four times in his first 13 league appearances.
It took Suarez time to warm up to the intensity of the Premier League, but he went on to become one of the most prolific centre-forwards in the history of the competition, amassing 23 goals in 33 appearances the following term and winning the Premier League Golden Boot in the 2013/14 campaign.
Having spoken to Liverpool fans, the mood regarding Nunez is optimistic, with some arguing that he looks a very ‘raw’ talent and, like Suarez, will need some time to bed in.
And there is plenty to be optimistic about, just looking at his recent player of the match performance against West Ham, where Nunez tested Lukasz Fabianski several times, notably with an incredible bouncing volley to force an excellent save from the goalkeeper.
Nunez tested West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski several times when they met at Anfield
So how can the World Cup benefit the Liverpool centre-forward?
With the World Cup now just four weeks away, Nunez is likely to receive a call-up for his national side.
With 13 caps and three international goals to his name, it’ll be his first time attending a World Cup Finals and presents a fantastic opportunity for the forward to get more game time and goals.
Plus, there is the added prospect of shadowing Uruguayan legends such as Suarez and Edison Cavani.
Luis Suarez (pictured) is expected to go to the World Cup in Qatar later this year with Uruguay
Nunez could shadow Suarez to gain insight into how he performed up top for Liverpool
Uruguay’s World Cup Fixtures
November 24 vs South Korea
November 28 vs Portugal
December 2 vs Ghana
Suarez, in particular, could be a fantastic player for Nunez to study and see how El Pistolero fitted into the Liverpool side and how he succeeded there.
While it won’t be easy to find the back of the net at the tournament, with Uruguay coming up against Portugal, South Korea and old rivals Ghana in the group stages, the chance to excel on the world stage would be a great way for Nunez to build his confidence and grab some goals.
Perhaps a break from the hurly burly of the Premier League may also help him take a breath and come back stronger for the Reds.
It’s clear that the 23-year-old has a ton of talent, but will need time to adjust to the physicality and intensity of the Premier League.
If things go well for Nunez, perhaps it won’t be long before Liverpool start to see their landmark investment pay off.
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