Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez has looked a player transformed in the early months of the 2023-24 campaign.
The Uruguay international struggled in his debut season at Anfield last term, drawing criticism for his erratic decision-making in the final third and tendency to miss golden chances.
He’s still had the odd howler or two, but he’s looked much more clinical and confident in year two – while the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa in the national team set-up appears to have given him a new lease of life.
“He is a coach who has things very clear,” Nunez told El Pais on the influence Bielsa has had on him.
“He asks us to make the pressure strong, all together from the back to the front. What he tells us we try to apply on the field of play and that is what we have been doing.
“What caught my attention the most is that (he asked me to) run behind the centre-backs. It is a very big demand for a forward. But I am adapting to the game that Marcelo wants. I try to apply what he asks of me.”
“It’s the riddle of the life of a striker,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told reporters in early November.
“You have a few goals already and it makes it easier. He always will miss chances but if you miss the first five before you score it doesn’t feel great.
“Now he has had a good start to the season and he has scored fantastic goals, different goals, all kinds of goals. He’s in a different moment.”
Here are nine statistics that demonstrate what a different beast Nunez has been in 2023-24 so far:
– Nunez is the top scorer in South American World Cup qualifying with five goals. He’s also the joint top-assister, with three (although there is some discrepancy, with some outlets counting just two). Either way, he leads the way for total goal contributions.
– The striker notched just three goals and no assists in his first 16 caps for Uruguay. That was a goal contribution every 315 minutes. Since Bielsa took over, he’s registered five goals and three assists, averaging a goal contribution every 57 minutes.
– Nunez has either scored or assisted in all but one of his six appearances under Bielsa for Uruguay – and on that occasion, a 2-1 defeat to Ecuador, he was subbed off at half-time due to injury.
• • • •
• • • •
– In all competitions for club and country this season, Nunez has registered 12 goals and nine assists in 23 appearances. That works out as a goal contribution every 63 minutes.
– That’s only three fewer goal contributions than Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, who has played considerably more minutes.
– He’s now beaten his goals and assists tally for club and country from last season and we’re not even into December.
– Nunez is averaging a goal or assist every 72.8 minutes for Liverpool in all competitions this season. That’s a huge leap from his goal or assist average (124.4 minutes) from last season.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 2, 2023
– Of players to play over 500 minutes in the Premier League this season, Nunez ranks top for shots (5.3 per 90 minutes) and is level with Haaland for shots on target (2.4 per 90 minutes).
– Last season, Nunez ranked fourth in the Premier League for expected goals per 90 minutes (0.64xG/90) but considerably underperformed, scoring nine goals from 12.1xG. This season he ranks sixth for expected goals per 90 minutes (0.75xG/90) and is once again underperforming (four goals from 5.0xG) but he continues to get into dangerous areas.