Editor’s Column: Start Darwin Nunez on Saturday or risk bursting his bubble

Darwin Nunez’s brace against all odds versus Newcastle United was a genuinely iconic moment, ignoring the fact his first season in England was a difficult one.

Down to ten men for most of the game and on the end of some horrible refereeing, Liverpool fought bravely and turned the game on its head at the death with the Uruguayan scoring two nearly identical goals.

Jurgen Klopp simply has to start him against Aston Villa this Sunday. It would not only be cruel to drop him after his exceptional impact at St. James’ Park, but a poor piece of man-management.

Nunez is a confidence player, for better or for worse. He’s physically exceptional – the fastest and strongest forward we have at the club – but when he’s not backing his own ability – his composure can be the worst.

He missed 28 big chances last season. He scored 15 goals, but if he’d notched half of these opportunities on top, that’s 29 goals for the campaign in which he started less than half the games. His numbers once he begins to finish with regularity could be astonishing because he gets in good positions so often.

And his finishes versus Newcastle were exceptional. The way he took the first one and blasted it into the only corner of the net the keeper wasn’t covering was sublime; as was the manner in which he ran around the ball from Mo Salah’s straight pass to make himself an angle for a similar shot.

As a result, his confidence is the highest it’s been since joining the club from Benfica. It’s a shame we didn’t have a midweek game as Nunez will be chomping at the bit for more action following his 13 minute cameo. Putting him on the bench in a winnable home game will pause his momentum. We need him to build rhythm, work on patterns of play and benefit from the through-balls of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominic Szoboszlai.

It’s not a great metric for future success, but Nunez scored every 45 minutes in pre-season. If we start him up top, he will score a bucketload, especially with this newfound self-assurance.

Klopp however was quite unemotional when asked if Nunez would be in the side for Villa’s trip to Anfield.

“I never made a decision about the line-up the week before the game, we will see. But you can have worse arguments, I would say,” the manager told LIverpoolfc.com

“He is not happy for not starting, that’s how it is but somebody, in this early stage of the season, cannot start. We cannot have 11 players and play them all the time, so we need to find stability is the discussion… I don’t know if the public discusses it but of course players are not happy [when they do not start],” Klopp said.

“But after the international break we play every three days and nobody can play all the games so we have to make sure we have different options to go for. And we need to create a new way to play football and, of course, Darwin can be a super part of that. His key strengths are exceptional, absolutely, but we need to find stability as well. So, for him everything will be fine but it is just maybe it had to be like this – if he wouldn’t have been that angry and started the game today, he wouldn’t score two in the last six minutes or whatever, so let’s take it like that.”

You can see where the manager is coming from but sometimes you need to be less robotic and pick on instinct, especially when we have a week between games at the moment, meaning tiredness isn’t an issue and rotation unnecessary.

Diogo Jota has been decent up top so far this term, while Cody Gakpo didn’t do much in the false-9 role at Newcastle and has been in midfield in our other two games. Nunez has had the fewest minutes but looks the most dangerous, even if his touch outside the box is the worst.

In bigger games away from home, I’d always start Gakpo. His linkup play will be huge for us in these games, and Jota is a great option in two different positions. Nunez is not a left-winger and Klopp needs to use him centrally now his confidence is up.

The player himself hinted at a strained relationship with Klopp in a recent interview with Sport890, cited on Reddit.

“Klopp is the coach and I respect his opinion. I keep working in silence and I’m going to do my job in the minutes that I have. When the game ended, he hugged me. If I deny him the hug, he crosses me and I don’t play more,” he joked. 

“I went into every game angry. You always want to play from the start. My fever has gone and everything is fine with the Manager. There are players of a high level. It is a big club and there is healthy competition between the players.”

Nunez’s emotions have so far been a weakness, but the manner in which he battled and celebrated on Sunday convince me that could become a strength.

He is not a natural pressing monster yet, but with his speed and physicality, he could do wonders in this area.

Despite his brilliance last time out, there are many that need convincing is his ability. Fair enough. He’s frustrating. But if Klopp puts him back on the bench now, we won’t find out.

The post Editor’s Column: Start Darwin Nunez on Saturday or risk bursting his bubble appeared first on The Empire of The Kop.

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