Darwin Núñez has been a curious finisher since his move to Liverpool. To kick on, he may need to ‘ignore’ Jürgen Klopp and take Carlo Ancelotti’s advice.
Darwin Núñez is still getting used to life on English shores, and to suggest that his debut Premier League campaign has been a turbulent one would be an understatement. Since joining Liverpool from Benfica last summer, the Uruguayan international has established himself as a true agent of chaos, especially in the final third.
So far this term, no player in the division is averaging more shots per 90 minutes than Núñez, and he also places top of the table for Expected Goals (xG) per 90, ahead of Erling Haaland in second. He is inclined to hoover up valuable chances close to goal by acting as a magnet in the penalty box, but his finishing has proved to be unpredictable.
The South American has missed the second-most big chances in the Premier League, and he’s been prone to overthinking at times. Sure enough, Jürgen Klopp seems to have identified an issue in his conversations with Núñez behind the scenes. The Reds number 27 opened up about his words with his coach in an interview with Sky Sports recently.
“Klopp knows my strength is my speed, running into space. Also, he tells me that I need to be more calm when I’m playing, and that I need to move more,” said Núñez. “He tells me that I need that, and that I am a player with a lot of quality. So, that’s more or less what he wants from me — and, of course, that I score goals.
He has told me that I have to be calm in games when it comes to finishing. He wants me to take a second longer, because if I shoot with anger, or I rush it, then it will always go badly. He asks me to take an extra second, with calmness, and I will score.”
Indeed, Núñez has panicked at times when being presented with opportunities to find the net, so Klopp is right in that respect. In fact, he’s accumulated 36 shots after taking two or more touches in all competitions this season, scoring just one of them. When he’s got time to think, he almost seems to dawdle and delay the best action.(Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Those numbers change dramatically when Núñez shoots with his first touch. Per Football Transfers, he’s amassed 60 one-touch shots and scored with 13 of them since his move to Liverpool, which is a healthy return and perhaps offers an insight into his clinical edge when he reacts on instinct. It’s not clear how that tallies with the advice of Klopp to ‘take a second longer’, even if it feeds into the same idea of not panicking.
Shooting early is a quality that Carlo Ancelotti likes. The current Real Madrid boss managed Everton just a few years ago, and during his time at Goodison Park, he made notable improvements to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s game by providing him with finishing advice.
Carlo Ancelotti is on me every day for first-touch finishes and to be in the box, in the right areas. It’s nice to know what I’m working on in training is coming off on the pitch,” said Calvert-Lewin at the time, before touching on how Filippo Inzaghi had been provided as an example, who famously represented AC Milan when the legendary Italian coach managed the San Siro outfit.
That analogy from Carlo was more of an emphasis on being in the right place at the right time,” said the English striker. “Not to say I am a carbon copy of Pippo Inzaghi, but there are elements of his game that I have been showing in my game, and they are one-touch finishes and being in the right areas to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Núñez already has one-touch finishes ingrained into his game. Once he masters calmness and the ability to score goals when he’s got time and space on his side, he will become the ultimate striker at Anfield. Klopp knows that already, but when it comes to the specifics of how to achieve it, perhaps the Uruguayan needs to ‘ignore’ his manager and listen to Ancelotti.