Darwin Nunez has come in for a fair amount of stick in his debut season at Anfield. Despite having to adjust to a new language, league and teammates, the Uruguayan has managed a decent 10 goals in 25 matches so far, even as the team around him as struggled.
While social media fans are quick to clip the occasional mis-control or scuffed shot attempt, Liverpool supporters will know that the 23-year-old has It, that X-factor that sets certain players apart. Manager Jurgen Klopp clearly sees that special ability as well, being quick to come to the defense of his €100 million striker.
“He doesn’t speak Spanish and I don’t speak English, Nunez said of Klopp, in a recent interview with Sky Sport.
“So we don’t understand each other, but ever since I arrived at Liverpool, he has always given me confidence,” Nunez says of Klopp.
“I don’t think I’m playing well at the moment, but I always want to improve. I try to improve every day.”
With a big center forward’s physique yet blessed with lightening pace, Nunez has utilized his physical gifts and striker’s instincts to carve out chances at a world class clip—but has struggled with finding the composure to convert his impressive xG numbers in the analytics into actual G’s on the scoresheet. The player admitted that this was an area of improvement that Klopp is working with him on, revealing the advice the manager has given to improve in front of goal:
“Klopp knows my strength is my speed, running into space,” Nunez continued.
“Also, he tells me that I need to be more calm when I’m playing, and that I need to move more. He tells me that I need that, and that I am a player with a lot of quality. So, that’s more or less what he wants from me—and, of course, that I score goals.”
“He has told me that I have to be calm in games when it comes to finishing,” he says. “He wants me to take a second longer, because if I shoot with anger, or I rush it, then it will always go badly. He asks me to take an extra second, with calmness, and I will score.”
A big help to Liverpool’s no. 27 has been the mentorship of international teammate and former Red, Luis Suarez, who himself had a difficult debut season at Anfield before going on one of the most prolific runs in recent club history. The enigmatic forward ended up scoring 82 goals in 133 games for the Reds, forging a path for his fellow countryman to follow by blocking out the criticism and doing the hard work on the training ground.
“Obviously, I still have many things to work on, for example my finishing,” Nunez admitted. “But I think the same thing is happening to me as happened to Suarez. In his second year, he tore it up.
Source: Sky Sports
“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.”
“Of course, it’s always helpful to speak with Suarez,” says Nunez.
“For me, he is an idol. He is a great example. In the national team, I now have a much better relationship with him.
“We are always talking and he is always giving me advice. I always try to keep in touch with him. I ask him a lot of things because he was at this club and he has a lot more experience than me. He is an important player to give me advice and explain things to me.”
Liverpool supporters should be heartened by the potential Nunez has shown in this debut season. On display has been that striker’s mindset to keep shooting even when things aren’t going his way and also the hard-working approach that has seen him take recent benchings on the chin as he pushes to be more influential:
“I believe, as a player, you have to use [not starting] as motivation,” he continued. “You can get angry, but you have to get angry with yourself and say, ‘OK, tomorrow at training, I’m going to train twice as hard’, you know?
“You have to take it like that because, if it gets to your head, things are obviously going to go badly. You have to say, ‘I’m going to train hard and I’m going to do things well because I want to win my place and I want to play’. That’s how it is.”