The big Uruguayan arrived from Benfica for a fee of around £85M earlier this summer and has had an interesting start (to say the least) to his Liverpool career.
It’s fair to say he hasn’t fully settled into this team yet, but likewise, the team hasn’t fully settled with his arrival and his style on the pitch.
No doubt it will take time, but the early signs have shown that he offers a much more direct that than what Liverpool forwards have typically offered in the years previous.
Nunez’s direct approach
Firstly, Nunez arriving as a more natural number nine is already a big difference for this Liverpool side – given they’ve deployed Roberto Firmino as a false nine for almost the entirety of the Jurgen Klopp era.
That already shakes up the front three which no longer includes Sadio Mane. The loss of him, coupled with Nunez arriving and Luis Diaz taking the left wing role means that the style of play is already different.
However, the game at the weekend against Everton showed us how Nunez is a different style of forward. Liverpool’s inside forwards have always been direct in terms of shots – Mohamed Salah averaged 4 shots per game in the league last year.
Looking at Nunez, he’s currently the third highest rated in Europe for shots per game with 5 – and he totalled six shots at the weekend, with two on target.
He’s typically not been involved in the action too much – his 30.0 touches per 90 minutes (per FBRef) is way down on the averages for Firmino (53.3), Jota (45.9) or even Divock Origi (43.6).
That mirrors more of a typical number nine; Erling Haaland at Manchester City has been criticised but when you put the ball in the back of the net, it’s not considered a big problem.
According to the Liverpool ECHO, Salah has made 91 league appearances for Liverpool away from home and he has recorded these figures (or better) on just three occasions – Mane only managed it on two occasions.
Salah has only managed 2.8 so far this year, which is well down from last year. Plus, as per the Athletic, Salah is seeing less of the ball. A combination of factors have played into that, but Nunez being a goal-focused forward has so far taken away from Salah and other attackers. Despite all the stats, we must stress that it’s only September and this has the potential to be a deadly attack, once all the pieces for into place.