Liverpool came out 2-0 winners at Anfield this week in their crunch Champions League game against in-form Napoli.
The Reds were heading into the match off the back of a home defeat against Leeds, another reminder of their inconsistent and disappointing season thus far.
Jurgen Klopp and his men knew the game would be tough as memories of the first encounter between the clubs this season will likely still have been fresh – the Serie A leaders dismantled them back in Naples 4-1.
However a repeat was not to be, Liverpool struck late twice and ended Napoli’s long 21-game unbeaten run. Although it wasn’t enough to top the group, the result has spawned several positives – one being the impact that Darwin Nunez can have.
Although only appearing as a substitute in the 73rd minute, the striker made a strong case for being one of the best players on the pitch, or at least making the biggest impact. Despite only being on the pitch for the last 15 minutes, he received an impressive Sofascore rating of 7.5.
The Uruguayan provided the initial saved header for Mohamed Salah’s goal, rising brilliantly to connect with a corner, and he also struck very late on to round out what was a seriously impressive cameo performance.
On the Chalkboard
Writing in The Telegraph, Chris Bascombe may have found the most eloquent way of describing the forward, noting he could be a ‘fittingly erratic solution to Liverpool’s inconsistent season’.
It was clear from the moment that the former Benfica man was introduced against Napoli that he was going to be an instigator and unnerve the Italian side’s defenders. A physical presence with pace, the 23-year-old is an undeniably chaotic force on the pitch – particularly when in and around the box.
Being 6 foot 2 makes it difficult for defenders to challenge for headers against him, and this may also be one of the things that makes the striker stand out from his fellow Liverpool teammates.
Looking at the rest of the attackers next to him, there is an obvious profile of smaller and technically savvy players – the likes of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota for example.
Nunez is something completely different, more in the mould of Erling Haaland, but seemingly more unpredictable than the Norwegian.
Liverpool’s club-record signing of £85m was always going to be burdened with expectations, but a return of seven goals and an assist so far this season is a good platform for the South American to build on.
According to FBref, the Uruguay titan ranks in the top 2% for non-penalty goals, non-penalty xG and total shots. This is an illustration of the relentless nature that is provided by the £140k-per-week man, who fires off shots with machine-like consistency.
Another interesting statistic is his touches in the opposition box, he averages 7.84 per 90, ranking him in the top 2% in relation to his oppositional peers (as per FBref). This is evidence of the presence imposed by the Uruguayan, marking his territory and causing a constant worry for opposing defenders.
Klopp himself has described the striker’s potential as “incredible”, while former Liverpool man Jamie Carragher labelled him as “actually scary” when assessing the goalscorer’s numbers throughout his career.
With this all being said, it’s vital Liverpool persist with their new £70m-rated man, and a shift to 4-3-3 more regularly may be another way to get the best out of him – allowing the club-record signing to get amongst the box and use his presence to great effect.