There was plenty of Liverpool excitement when Darwin Nunez arrived at Anfield, but he’s struggled to produce his best form and has been upstaged by Erling Haaland.
Erling Haaland has increased the scrutiny on Darwin Nunez’s underwhelming start to life at Liverpool, according to former Reds striker Robbie Keane.
The 23-year-old was Liverpool’s marquee summer signing and looked on course to hit the ground running following his £85million switch. He scored on his debut in the 3-1 victory over Manchester City in the Community Shield and then found the net in the 2-2 draw with Fulham on his Premier League debut.
However, a moment of madness against Crystal Palace – when he headbutted defender Joachim Andersen – saw him shown a red card and handed a three-game suspension. Since his return, he’s failed to score and he has started just one of Liverpool’s last three matches.
Nunez’s arrival coincided with Manchester City’s swoop for Haaland, and it’s been a much different experience for the Norwegian forward since his arrival in the Premier League. He sits top of the divison’s goalscoring charts having already scored a remarkable 14 goals in just 10 matches across all competitions for Pep Guardiola’s side.
“It is a bit unfair, but it’s definitely put extra attention on him,” Keane told GOAL when discussing Nunez’s slow start. “Because Haaland has done so well, people are looking at Nunez and asking why he hasn’t.
“It’s not necessarily right, because they’re different players coming into different situations and you can’t always compare, but it has killed Nunez a bit. They both came in for big money at the same time, and only one of them is flying.”
Keane also believes the Uruguyan’s sending off against Palace has played a role in his difficulties so far: “That will definitely have affected his confidence. He’d started off quite well, but that set him right back.
But it would have been an adaptation period anyway. He definitely would not have been used to the intensity of the Premier League, and especially the way a Klopp side plays, always on the front foot, always with a lot of energy. There’s no way he’d have had that with his previous teams, so it was always going to take him a bit of time to get up to speed.”
There were encouraging signs for Nunez over the international break as he headed home a Luis Suarez cross en route to a 2-0 friendly win for Uruguay over Canada. That goal could prove to be crucial in kickstarting his campaign.
Jurgen Klopp and his staff are doing all they can to provide the best platform to help him succeed at the club, and the underlying numbers do hint that improvements shouldn’t be too far away.
According to FBref, he’s averaging more shots and shots inside the penalty area than any other Premier League player on a per 90 basis. He also tops the list for the most per 90 touches in the penalty area.
Although we’re talking about a relatively small playing sample, based on his time with Benfica, it’s unlikely that those averages are going to fall below the league’s elite even as he starts to accumulate more minutes. Instead, the only difference should be that those raw numbers will translate to a better return in terms of goals.
At least, that’ll be the hope of Liverpool officials who won’t want to see their big summer investment continue to linger in the shadow of City’s newest star.