Speaking at the press conference ahead of Liverpool FC’s Carabao Cup tie against Leicester City, assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders was asked about Darwin Nunez’s recent rich vein of form. The Dutchman had some praise in store for Darwizzy:
I think it’s a compliment to Darwin. The fans love him, no? He has this extreme mentality to run, to fight, to arrive in positions where nobody thinks he can arrive. For us, it’s really important that he stepped up, not just offensively but especially defensively as well. It’s nice to see him in a good moment, it is nice to see him positive, it is nice to see him starting games back-to-back, two times in a row. You see immediately what that does to a player. He is a pure intuition player, who smells and he goes and he sees and he does.
Away at Newcastle would change any player’s life, to be honest, if you can change like how he changed it. Compliments to how we defended there with 10 men for such a long period, but how he could make two goals from nothing. That gives him confidence and an intuition player like Darwin needs this kind of confidence. He speaks better English already, he invests a lot in himself, and how [it is for] every person in this room or everywhere, you need success – a player with confidence and a player without confidence is just a different player.
A guy with confidence or without confidence is a different guy. It is important that he is confident. He is training really, really hard since pre-season – really, really hard. That’s good.
Indeed, confidence seems to be doing Darwin a world of good. Everything’s coming up good for him now, and he lends the Liverpool attack a very different element of chaos. Lijnders elaborated more on what the striker’s attributes lends to the Reds’ counter-press:
This team is still in development, you feel that. For example, if you see Wolves first half or Wolves second half, if you see the Villa performance or even the last game. I think we are the team with the highest number of counter-presses in the league at the moment, so that is a real good sign already. That will give us consistency. As the gaffer says, the best playmaker in the world is counter-pressing and we really believe in this – but to be able to play good counter-press, you need a fluid build-up, you need the ball in the right positions, you need the middle more compact. All of these things. For that, you can play really good counter-pressing and normally we always say the player who loses the ball needs to be the first one who chases. Hopefully Darwin is loads of times the first one because it means we are higher up the pitch. What he gives us, what we didn’t have before, is when we play and the teams put us under pressure, especially when they go man-to-man, we can use him to go over the press or through the press. Then it gives a lot of space for Mo, Lucho, Jots or Cody, whoever.
Liverpool’s chance generation just seems to go way up whenever the Uruguayan striker is on the pitch, and he’s starting to put them away now. Long may that continue. Also, Pepijn calling Jota “Jots” is pretty cute. Up the Reds!