Wednesday, February 8, 2023

A ‘dangerous’ new Liverpool trio emerge as Jurgen Klopp formulates a brilliant plan for Darwin Nunez

A ‘dangerous’ new Liverpool trio emerge as Jurgen Klopp formulates a brilliant plan for Darwin Nunez

Darwin Nunez was a game-changing addition for Liverpool. While he is not yet legally the club’s record signing, he is likely to at least equal the transfer cost paid for Virgil van Dijk, with add-ons potentially bringing the total to £85 million.

It was a sign of intent from Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool had not spent a substantial amount for a striker since Roberto Firmino (and Christian Benteke) came in 2015, and have not signed a striker since acquiring Dominic Solanke in 2017. Therefore, creating a significant impression on an outstanding young number nine appeared to mark the beginning of the next generation.

The narrative was strengthened by Manchester City’s simultaneous signing of Erling Haaland. Two clubs who had gotten by for some time with non-traditional strikers were obtaining spearheads to propel them to more triumph.

However, this is not how events have transpired. Nunez got off to a shaky start due to a careless red card and subsequent suspension; yet, even after returning, he has not truly assumed the position that was anticipated of him.

His brace against Southampton, the match in which he genuinely announced his “coming” — shortly before the World Cup break, inconveniently — was scored from the left wing, not the middle.

This evolution was somewhat imposed upon Klopp. This is certainly not how he intended to utilize Nunez. Due to the absence of both Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota, he has been forced to improvise.

Obviously, Diaz has experienced a setback in his recovery. The January transfer window provides a potential reprieve, but Liverpool are unlikely to enter the market given that two of their key attackers will return within a couple of months of any move. Far more likely is that Klopp will be forced to play Nunez on the wing for the foreseeable future, and based on the scant evidence thus far, he won’t mind.

It helps that Firmino has experienced something of a midfield rebirth. His ‘wrong’ perception of the number nine position has allowed Nunez and Mohamed Salah to operate as split strikers and wingers, respectively. However, there is also a significant amount of touchline-hugging work, and it is safe to assume that Klopp has made the most of the circumstances by unleashing a “dangerous” new three.

In any case, it is the evaluation of Andy Robertson. Speaking to the ECHO from Liverpool’s training facility in Dubai, he provided his assessment of Nunez and intriguing insight on his redeployment to the wing:

“I enjoyed the last couple of games playing with him on the left-hand side and I thought me, him and Thiago linked up really well on the left. We looked dangerous and Darwin looked dangerous on the left.”

That is not a triumvirate that anyone anticipated forming. Robertson was meant to deliver crosses to Nunez’s head, not engage in intricate sideline exchanges with him. But the Scot is clearly enjoying the partnership, which has the potential to be extremely fruitful for Liverpool.

Like Klopp’s “real” wingers, Nunez enjoys cutting inside. This immediately creates a problem for fullbacks and creates room for Robertson to bomb down the wing. But even more than Jota, a deceptively potent aerial threat, the Uruguayan presents defenders with a difficult physical task. 

This is the beauty of a wide-playing number nine; it nearly always creates a devastating danger at the far post. The fact that Trent Alexander-Arnold is delivering from the opposite side does not harm.

And this is without mentioning Thiago, the third member of the triangle. In recent years, he has been an integral part of Liverpool’s greatest trios; his temporary transition to the right formed a lethal combination with Alexander-Arnold and Salah, and more recently he has been working brilliantly with Robertson and Diaz.

Thiago has the ability to attract defenders to him and then eliminate them from the equation. Whatever he may have up his sleeve — a fast drop of the shoulder, a pass nobody else has seen — he will turn possible danger into an opportunity. This, in conjunction with Robertson’s continual outlet down the flank and Nunez’s unpredictability, creates openings that would not have existed otherwise.

This was not a trio that Klopp planned in advance. However, his version has the potential to be a masterpiece. While Nunez is likely still destined to eventually assume the number nine position, this first Liverpool evolution could still produce amazing results.

A ‘dangerous’ new Liverpool trio emerge as Jurgen Klopp formulates a brilliant plan for Darwin Nunez

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