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Darwin Núñez just completed his Liverpool integration and Jürgen Klopp can now fully unleash him

There have been few complaints regarding Darwin Núñez’s goal return since he joined Liverpool, but Jürgen Klopp just saw a key sign of ‘true’ integration.



Despite the efforts of many rival fans to paint Darwin Núñez as a flop, nothing more than a South American Andy Carroll, his record with Liverpool proves he has been anything but a failure so far. There have certainly been low points — as Joachim Andersen can attest — but overall his initial period with the club has been positive.


Núñez signed off for the World Cup with a brace against Southampton, the first two-goal haul of his Reds career. In a phenomenal first-half performance, the 23-year-old created two clear-cut chances while shooting three of his own. It was only the second instance of a Liverpool player directly contributing to five in a single match since the summer of 2018, and he did it in a 26-minute period.


His goals against the Saints gave the Uruguayan a total of nine for his new club. Add in his assists at Fulham and Tottenham and Núñez has been involved in a goal every 86 minutes this term. When a player has made more contributions (11) than starts (10), accusations of being a waste of money look a very long way wide of the mark.


But while goals pay the rent, Núñez will have to offer far more besides. He won’t succeed in a Jürgen Klopp team otherwise. In his 941 minutes for the Reds, the former Benfica man has made just six tackles and three interceptions (per FBRef). At that rate, even if he plays the full match — something he has only done twice for Liverpool — you can’t be certain to get a single defensive contribution from Núñez.


But there are more ways to regain possession than via the metrics which the established data companies provide. Chief among them, especially for Klopp, is counter-pressing. On that front, Liverpool’s costliest summer signing put in a superb shift against Southampton.


Research by the team at Anfield Index revealed that Núñez made the second-most presses in the Reds’ most recent fixture. By their measure, only one of his 23 efforts was unsuccessful. On five occasions he regained possession, and though none of his pressing led to a goal or shot, that has been an issue which has hampered Liverpool across the board throughout this season.


Per The Analyst, the Reds have forced 123 high turnovers in the Premier League; this is when a team wins the ball within 40 metres of the opposition goal to begin a new possession sequence. That’s the same total as Brighton and Leicester, but where Liverpool have only generated 17 shots and one goal in these moments, the figures for those clubs are 28 and two, and 27 and four respectively.


But back to Núñez and the Saints he terrorised. Nathan Jones deployed his full available compliment of 16 players in his managerial debut with Southampton, and Liverpool’s number 27 pressed nine of them. From a starting position wide on the left, that’s a decent effort. The Uruguayan pressurised the goalkeeper, four of the starting back five — it’s understandable left-back Romain Perraud escaped attention — as well as holding midfielder Roméo Lavia. The Reds’ forward later pressed three substitutes who came on to feature in the aforementioned positions too.


Núñez had hinted at offering this level of work rate already. Where rival fans share clips of his misses on social media, Kopites post footage of him sprinting back to cover the Liverpool penalty box. Fans know what Klopp wants from his players and are ready to offer examples to prove their point. But what Núñez demonstrated against Southampton suggested his integration into a hard-pressing Liverpool side is now almost complete. Added to his already excellent goal contribution figures, this can only auger well for the second half of the campaign.



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