Jurgen Klopp has answered questions about Darwin Nunez’s role within the Liverpool front three.
The Uruguay international made the big-money move to Anfield last summer following a prolific season in Portugal with Benfica, and has had a decent impact during his time with Liverpool.
The 23-year-old has scored nine goals and provided three assists in 24 league appearances for the Reds this season, though has the second-highest number of ‘big chances missed’ in the division (18), with only Erling Haaland – yes we are shocked too – having missed more (20).
Despite only being afforded nine minutes of action during Liverpool’s 6-1 win over Leeds on Monday, Nunez got on the scoresheet with a tidy control and finish.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s clash against Nottingham Forest, Jurgen Klopp was asked about Nunez’s role in the side, with the forward having only started 17 league games this season.
“Darwin is a player with a different skillset to all our other players,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “That’s good. He’s a real handful, he’s a machine and he’s scored already a decent number of goals, so that’s all fine. But yes, of course, he’s still adapting. His English is still not great, if not existing at all, we are working on that massively.
“So, it’s not helpful to go through a difficult debut season for the whole team, which makes it [difficult] then for a striker. How can a striker shine when the whole team is struggling? That’s not possible. But he had super moments for us but was injured in some moments and suspended in other moments. That’s not helpful, but it’s no problem at all.
“This is a long-term project. I understand the team wants to play desperately from the beginning and stuff like this. That’s all fine but we have to find a way that works really for us again. Then we have to fit in the players we really can use the specific strengths as well. I’m completely fine with the situation. But I understand that Darwin is not always fine, but it’s not that he smiles in my face when he realises he will not start, it’s not like this; ‘Oh, thank you, boss.’ That’s not like that, but it’s absolutely fine and that’s how we have to deal with the situation. When you have five [or] six players available up front I have to make decisions – that’s good. That’s how it should be and then we will see.
“The boys, the door is miles open, but the more sessions we have, the more sessions you have to show up. He came on and was exceptional [against Leeds]. Not only the goal he scored, before that as well… it was exactly the right way. Everybody who came on was on fire and that’s what we need. And then how I said, we have now five games in two weeks and Darwin will start games definitely.”
Nunez has operated in both the central role and on the left of Liverpool’s front three, and Klopp was asked where he see’s the forwards long-term future.
“He’s a centre-forward who plays on the left when he plays on the left. So, that’s how it is. We need definitely a specific set-up that he can play and defend in the centre. That’s how it is.
“Playing [in] the centre is not a problem, there’s a machine, but then we have to make sure we really understand as a team. But again, we were not stable for a long spell in the season.
“Then you have all of a sudden on top of all the problems we had, you have to adapt to different defending [and] striker up front as well. That’s how it is. If football would be that easy you would just put the 11 players with the most potential together on the pitch and then hope that it works out. Then you don’t need me or other managers.
“So, it’s really about fine-tuning and that’s what we are still doing obviously. We don’t know where this season will end up, but after this season there is another season. That’s already in my mind as well. We have to build on what we do now and what we learn now. We learned a lot which we didn’t want to learn and now we have maybe the opportunity to learn a few things we really can use. That’s how I see it. That means everything is fine.
“He can play both positions 100 per cent and both positions really well and did that for us already. I am completely fine. He has to learn English, we can translate everything, but in training sessions, we cannot have four languages. It’s football language and that will help him massively. That’s it.”