Ahead of Nottingham Forest’s visit to Anfield this weekend, head coach Jürgen Klopp spoke to the press about his varied attacking options, and commented on why new signing Darwin Nüñez has not found himself in the starting lineup of late (bar during his short periods of injury).
Per Klopp, “Darwin is a player with a different skillset to all our other players. He is a machine. He is still adapting. His English is still not great. How can a striker shine when the team is struggling? But he has had super moments.”
Naturally the press has latched onto the “English is not great,” element here, but perhaps more interesting is the emphasis on the challenges for a striker when the team around them is struggling.
Many of us must remember the abysmal 2020/21 season where much discussion surrounded Mohamed Salah’s relative silence in production, and while the Egyptian got a lot of blame the we also focused on how a disrupted defense can make things difficult for a cohesive attack. Such thoughts might be useful to keep in mind in a season where the Reds appear to be conceding for fun.
In expanding on his relationship with Núñez, Klopp noted that displayed emotion does not necessarily denote a problem, but rather a player who is hungry for success: “I understand Darwin is not always fine when he doesn’t start, smiling in my face, but it’s absolutely fine. When we have 5/6 players up front, I have to make decisions. The door is miles open for all the boys. He was exceptional [against Leeds]. Everyone who came on was on fire”
In other words, having a number of options going forward necessarily will lead to some disappointment.
For Klopp, Núñez is still developing, and next season may allow supporters to see more promise — presumably the language barrier will be addressed more as time passes, as well:
“He’s a centre forward but we need a specific set-up to play and defend from the centre but we have to understand as a team [to defend from the center]. We’ve had to adapt to different defending and striker up front, that’s how it is.
“It’s about fine tuning and that is what we’re doing. After this season there is another and that is already on my mind now. Maybe we can learn some things to use now, that’s how I see it. He can play both, absolutely. He has to learn English. That will help massively.”