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Nunez’s demolition of Mexico will count for little unless he turns Liverpool career around

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By Abbas Vadiwala

Darwin Nunez will look to carry forward his Uruguay form into the 2024-25 season for Liverpool

The Uruguayan forward, Darwin Nunez joined Liverpool in 2022 amidst great expectations and fanfare. He was acquired by Liverpool for 6 years at a 85 million pounds fee including add-ons. The forward was touted as a predatory attacker who could rival another high-profile signing made by Manchester City in the same transfer window, Erling Haaland. This season marked the absence of Sadio Mané, who departed for Bayern Munich, the first time since 2015–16 that Liverpool played without him. Nunez was expected to fill the gap left by Sadio Mane in terms of goals and assists and be the perfect foil to Mohammed Salah to elevate the attacking prowess of the Reds. Unfortunately, things did not pan out for the Uruguayan forward and Liverpool as per their initial expectations.

Darwin Nunez had a lacklustre first season at Liverpool
Darwin Nunez had a lacklustre first season at Liverpool

Nunez’s first season at Liverpool

In his first full season (2022-23) at Liverpool, Darwin Nunez could only manage to score 15 goals and provide 4 assists in 42 games, from which only 9 goals and 3 assists came in the Premier League. This was a drastic drop in form as compared to his previous season playing for Portuguese side Benfica. In the 2021-22 season, the Uruguayan had scored 34 goals and provided 4 assists in 41 games played.

His lack of output in front of the goal had a major impact on Liverpool’s overall season. Following a near-miss on achieving a potential quadruple in the prior season, Liverpool faced a disappointing 2022–23 campaign. Inconsistent performances in the Premier League dashed their title hopes, and they were eliminated from both cup competitions in the fourth round.

Their Champions League journey ended in dismay with a 6–2 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in the round of 16. Despite an impressive 11-game unbeaten streak towards the end, which included seven consecutive victories in the league, Liverpool still fell short of securing a top-four finish, ending up in 5th place and missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in seven years. Overall, their performance throughout the season was lacklustre, prompting significant squad changes for the upcoming campaign.

Liverpool attackers lack in form leads to a disappointing 2022-23 season (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Liverpool attackers lack of form leads to a disappointing 2022-23 season (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In an interview with Eurosport, the Uruguayan admitted that his form has been poor in his first season at Merseyside. He drew parallels with Liverpool great Suarez, stating that his compatriot also struggled in his first season at Liverpool before exploding in the second season. He also stated that in his first season at Benfica, he struggled to find form but finally hit his stride in his second season. He feels his best yet to come in a Liverpool shirt and thanked his manager for backing him to come good.

“I don’t think I’m playing well at the moment, but I always want to improve. I try to improve every day.

“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. Obviously, I still have many things to work on – for example, my finishing. But I think the same thing is happening to me as happened to Suarez. In his second year, he tore it up.”

“Something similar happened to me already at Benfica. The first year went very badly for me and in the second, I exploded. Here, I think the same thing is happening. I hope next season will be like that. I’ll put my best forward and hopefully I’ll get a bit of luck.


Nunez’s second season at Liverpool

In his second season at Liverpool, Nunez improved his tally by scoring 18 goals and providing 13 assists. This return is still not up to par for a team looking to challenge on all fronts every season. The team showed an improvement as compared to the previous season as they managed to win the EFL Cup. They also reached the quarterfinals of the FA Cup and the Europa League. In the Premier League, they finished 3rd and qualified for next year’s Champions League. Following a largely commendable performance throughout the season, Nunez experienced a notable decline in form towards the conclusion of the campaign.

After a promising start, Nunez lost steam towards the end of the 2023-24 season
After a promising start, Nunez lost steam towards the end of the 2023-24 season

Nunez has been in form for Uruguay

Though Nunez’s performance for Liverpool has been inconsistent, he has excelled for his national team lately. With three goals in his latest match, the ex-Benfica player has amassed eight goals in his last five appearances for his country. With the Copa America approaching, Liverpool’s No.9 is in top form.

We haven’t witnessed this version of Nunez during his time at Liverpool. While he has showcased moments of brilliance, his performance for Uruguay demonstrated pure striker’s instinct. It might seem critical, but if Nunez had been given similar opportunities at Liverpool, he might have squandered at least one. Nonetheless, Wednesday’s display strongly indicates that Liverpool must continue to support Darwin.

If he can find greater happiness and stability under Slot, he could become a formidable asset for Liverpool. There’s no one else in the squad – perhaps even in all of European football – quite like him. Hopefully, this will ignite Darwin to have a successful Copa America before returning to the AXA Training Centre rejuvenated and content. His journey is far from over.

Nunez’s future at Liverpool

At times, everything falls into place. And during those instances when everything aligns for Darwin Nunez, you might find yourself believing you’re witnessing the finest centre-forward globally, a dominant No 9 who combines sheer power and aggression with an occasional finesse that catches you off guard.

However, sustained success eludes him. Nunez epitomizes inconsistency, fluctuating between moments of brilliance and mediocrity, not just from one month or week to another, but frequently from one minute to the next. Even during his more impressive runs, there are occasions when the 24-year-old seems ill-suited for a team with lofty aspirations. His game is riddled with numerous rough edges.

Having scored only one goal in his last 13 appearances for Liverpool, and none in his previous 10 matches, doubts have emerged regarding the potential sale of Nunez by the club. However, it seems improbable for now. Nunez seems destined to remain at Anfield, with Arne Slot willing to afford him an opportunity.

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Wednesday night’s performance exemplified precisely why Liverpool are justified in retaining him. Nunez, content in his homeland with Uruguay, netted a hat-trick against Mexico, showcasing his prowess. But the performance will count for little if the player is unable to carry forward this form for Liverpool.

The performance against Mexico also shows that if provided the right setup, Nunez could potentially come good for Liverpool in the upcoming season and finally live up to his expectations. This is even more necessary if Mohammed Salah decides to not renew his contract which ends next year.