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2JK4EJR Darwin Nunez of Liverpool celebrates scoring the third goal for Liverpool during the FA Community Shield match between Liverpool and Manchester City at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England on 30 July 2022. Photo by Scott Boulton. Editorial use only, license required for commercial use. No use in betting, games or a single club/league/player publications. Credit: UK Sports Pics Ltd/Alamy Live News

Darwin Nunez: An unpredictable throwback in Liverpool’s evolution

With Liverpool breaking their transfer record to sign Darwin Nunez there comes an unprecedented weight of expectation. But what can we expect?

It’s a new dawn for Liverpool’s forward line.

When it comes to big signings nothing quite beats the buzz of an out-and-out striker joining the ranks; a position synonymous with the Kop and the greats of the club.

Darwin Nunez’s injury-time clincher in the Community Shield prompted euphoric scenes at the King Power Stadium, and whet the appetite for what could be to come from the big man this season.

In truth, we’ve not really had one for a while.

Bobby Firmino has spent the past seven seasons reinventing the No. 9 position and creating his own interpretation of the role.

Prior to that the likes of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, also exceptional goalscorers, had their unique skill sets, and concurrently there have been those who haven’t quite hit the heights.

Liverpool, England - Wednesday, July 4, 2007: Liverpool's new signing Fernando Torres with manage Rafael Benitez under the famous This is Anfield sign following his £26m transfer from Atletico Madird, a club record transfer fee. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The signing of Nunez has inexorable echoes of Fernando Torres.

The flowing locks, build and fanfare evoke very similar emotions to the summer of 2007, when coincidentally we had just lost a European Cup final.

If he turns out to be even half the player Torres was, we’re going to have a lot of fun along the way.

 

The price tag

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 30, 2022: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez during the FA Community Shield friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Easier said than done, but the amount spent on Darwin Nunez has to be removed from the picture to give a fair account of this upcoming campaign.

At what may become a club-record fee, it is an unavoidable discussion which will no doubt rear its head should things go south at certain points.

Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, amongst others, have however demonstrated that it’s possible to make people quickly forget the price tag when things go well.

When was the last time you heard those two fees questioned?

Comparisons with Erling Haaland aren’t particularly useful, but they are certainly inevitable. The sums of money and commotion involved ensure that.

Plenty was made of the manager’s comments following Paul Pogba’s move to Man United six years ago, when he was quoted as saying “the day that this is football, I’m not in a job anymore” in reference to a nine-figure transfer fee.

LEIPZIG, GERMANY - Thursday, July 21, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp embraces Darwin Núñez, who scored four goals, after a pre-season friendly match between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. Liverpool won 5-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Setting aside the fact that basic economics seems to have been lost in certain circles, Liverpool’s astute recruitment has put them in a position to make moves such as this one when the timing is right.

It is a stick that rival fans gleefully use to beat other players with, and frankly, on this occasion, it’s probably best to leave them to it.

If we have learned anything during Jurgen Klopp’s tenure it is the significance of patience and common sense.

We will know if we have reached a point at which to be concerned, and it won’t be when compilation creators on Twitter tell you.

 

The pre-season hysteria

BANGKOK, THAILAND - Tuesday, July 12, 2022: Liverpool's new signing Darwin Núñez during the Bangkok Century Cup pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at the Rajamangala National Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The frenzy of opinion surrounding Darwin’s opening cameos has been quite amusing to see, in both directions.

Practically written off in some quarters following a series of clips from his debut (even an open training session in Bangkok) whilst simultaneously heralded as the second coming of Eusebio after putting four past Leipzig.

It’s daft, but I suppose it’s all part of the fun.

Haaland and Nunez took centre stage and came away with the headlines in the Community Shield following their mixed penalty-box fortunes in injury time.

But despite drawing first blood, the player and the manager will be fully aware of how little it means in the grand scheme of things.

The Uruguayan’s sole focus will be to eradicate the need for such narratives and to write his own chapter in Liverpool folklore.

 

The evolution of the front three

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 30, 2022: Liverpool's substitute Darwin Núñez (R) replaces Roberto Firmino during the FA Community Shield friendly match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at the King Power Stadium. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The signing of Nunez certainly gives us options of which we’ve never known the likes before.

Mo Salah has committed his long-term future to the club at a time when Liverpool’s shrewdness in the transfer market has afforded the inception of a new era up top.

Luis Diaz’s exceptional start to his Liverpool tenure has seen him nail down a spot on the left, at least for the time being, and the size of the fee would indicate Nunez is to play a predominant role as the spearhead of the attack.

Roberto Firmino, the archetypal Klopp player, and Diogo Jota, the league’s sixth-highest scorer last season, might have something to say on that front.

Nunez’s profile, physicality and style of play may yet facilitate a change in formation, too, with Klopp looking to make his side “more unpredictable” and many pondering a potential switch to 4-2-3-1.

 

What to expect

2JK4EME Darwin Nunez of Liverpool scores the third goal for Liverpool during the FA Community Shield match between Liverpool and Manchester City at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England on 30 July 2022. Photo by Scott Boulton. Editorial use only, license required for commercial use. No use in betting, games or a single club/league/player publications. Credit: UK Sports Pics Ltd/Alamy Live News

All things considered, how much can realistically be hoped of the newcomer in his opening season?

Irrespective of the fee, we have seen overwhelming evidence that the manager is in no rush to integrate new signings into the starting XI until they are ready.

Playing in this system is no easy task. It took Andy Robertson the best part of six months to be let loose by Klopp, Fabinho even longer.

Something to hang our collective hats on is the explosive impact Diaz has made since January, demonstrating how numbers can translate across from the Portuguese league to England.

Nunez has those numbers in abundance, firing 26 in 28 league appearances last season with a goal coming every 76 minutes.

Pragmatically it is a time for calm, and to allow Nunez to bed in without placing unnecessary expectations on his very broad shoulders.

On the flip side, it would be really nice to look back on these musings in 10 years’ time having enjoyed the rise of another Liverpool great at No. 9.

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