Last season, despite the prodigious chances created numbers he racked up and his clear influence when Liverpool had the ball, a common refrain when Darwin Nuñez’ name came up with manager Jürgen Klopp was defending.
Defending from the front, setting the press, and being the first line in defence when the Reds don’t have the ball is key to a Klopp side—as shown through the years by Roberto Firmino. And while it wasn’t always clear to fans how Nuñez might be falling short on that front, it often seemed as though Klopp felt he was.
Not so any more, it seems.
“The standout in defending was really Darwin because it’s all about how Brentford want to play,” Klopp said after being asked about the play of his centre halves in Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Brentford. “They want to play long balls, that’s the thing.”
“So you need to know when [to press], and we can only influence that by one player, when you start the pressing from the centre you have to go for the goalie without getting the ball, they pass to the centre-half and you follow that, so the work-rate was insane.”
In addition to leading to praise for his star striker, Brentford’s long-ball approach was part of the reason Klopp started the day with Luiz Diaz and Harvey Elliott on the bench when many expected the duo to start.
“We had a very young bench and in a set-piece type of game, with Harvey and then Lucho not set-piece specialists, let me say it like that, to change was a bit tricky,” Klopp noted. “So it was clear a lot of players have to play really long and because Brentford never changed.”
Klopp went on to praise the fullbacks before coming back to acknowledging that, yes, the centre halves, too, had played well—as had the entire team, really, from Darwin Nuñez at the front to goalkeeper Alisson Becker at the back.
“A very important performance,” the manager said in closing. “A lot of players, actually all players really, performed on a top level today and I’m really happy with that.”