The evolution of Liverpool’s front line continues.
It started with Diogo Jota’s £45m addition in 2020. Then there was Luis Diaz at £49m last January. Now it’s Darwin Nunez, who will soon be the club’s most expensive signing at £85m from Benfica.
Jurgen Klopp is overseeing a renewal process in attack. His early successes came with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane either side of Roberto Firmino, but the three players, aged 30, 30 and 29 respectively, could presumably be gone next summer.
Mane is expected to be the first to go as his transfer to Bayern Munich approaches, while Firmino, like Salah, is entering the final year of his contract. Liverpool fans are still hoping to see Salah sign a new contract, but Firmino’s days are surely numbered.
The players tasked with taking over are on average six years younger and, as has happened with Salah, Mane and Firmino, Liverpool will hope they reach their heights at Anfield.
The relative youth of the trio – Jota and Diaz are 25 while Nunez is 22 – changes the age profile of the Liverpool squad, but Nunez is unique among them in that his attributes could also allow the Klopp’s team to diversify the way they play.
Nunez is a modern No.9 who stands 6ft 1in tall, with a hulking frame that sets him apart from other Liverpool forwards.
That’s what caught the attention of Klopp, who marveled at his physical strength after watching his ‘tough battles’ against Ibrahima Konaté in last season’s Champions League.
Nunez showed his goalscoring threat in those two games against Liverpool, scoring in each and attempting more shots (six) than any of his Benfica team-mates, while there was also evidence of qualities that will add a different dimension to Klopp’s attack.
No one has won more of their six successful jumps, while only one player, Benfica full-back Gilberto, has won more duels overall (15). “Very direct, fast, big and strong,” was Virgil van Dijk’s glowing verdict. “It’s quite difficult to play against,” he added.
Klopp, like Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, was never able to call on a player in Nunez’s mold during his Premier League spell but, like Erling Haaland at City, the Uruguayan will provide a focal point at the forefront of his offensive.
Nunez’s link-up game is one area of his game that needs improvement – he made just 57% of his Champions League passes last season – but his physical stature makes him an effective outlet for long passes.
It will certainly come in handy at Liverpool.
Klopp’s side have averaged around 63 per cent possession in each of the last three Premier League seasons, but they like to mix things up on the ball, go both long and short, and they remain the deadliest when ‘they are moving at high speed.
Opta’s advanced metrics show they made more direct attacks than any other Premier League side last season, while only Wolves made more fast breaks. With his pace and strength in the centre-forward position, Nunez could make them even better on both fronts.
He should help them on the crosses too.
Liverpool netted more crosses than any other Premier League side last season with 897 – 468 of which 468 came from marauding full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, who operate high up the pitch in order to stretch opponents.
Alexander-Arnold and Robertson produced 22 assists between them in the Premier League last season, creating a combined total of 145 chances. It’s not hard to imagine Nunez thriving on this service.
The Uruguayan scored six headed goals for Benfica last season, including five in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, the second-highest total in the division, and scored many more low deliveries in the box, where he is fit to lose its markers and find space. .
He’s also a threat from set pieces and that’s just another area where he should increase Liverpool’s goal threat.
Last season they scored the second most goals from set pieces in the Premier League with 19, but Klopp will be confident of increasing that tally with Nunez to target, along with Van Dijk, Konate and the others.
Nunez isn’t just a focal point either.
Klopp likes his attackers to change positions and appear in different areas in order to destabilize opposing defenders and that comes naturally to Nunez, who likes to cut inside from the left and drop deep to create space for his more ingrained teammates. before.
It remains to be seen how Klopp will accommodate two players who like to position themselves in left-sided areas in Nunez and Diaz, but the Uruguayan’s willingness to go deep should be another plus in a team where wide forwards are expected to play. run diagonally. to the goal. The Nunez movement can help.
Everything will of course depend on how he integrates into his new environment. Not everyone adapts to the Premier League as easily as Diaz did last season. But what is certain is that Nunez will bring qualities that Liverpool do not currently have. His arrival marks another exciting step in the evolution of Klopp’s forward line.