It shouldn’t feel nice watching Liverpool lose 4-0 to Manchester United. The commentators kept saying matches between these two sides ‘are never a friendly,’ but there has never been a friendlier friendly.
Jurgen Klopp used 21 players in the first-half and fielded a handful of lads who looked fresh out of the GCSE exam-hall.
I don’t care that we lost, and neither should anyone. I care more about the 9-0 aggregate victory we secured over them when it actually mattered, last season.
While the result is inconsequential, we can at least discuss the performances of our players; albeit with a big caveat that it might mean nothing at all.
Everyone was waiting for the moment Darwin Nunez came on, and after the hour mark, Klopp brought his £65m signing onto the pitch.
So, what did we see? First up, and most importantly, Nunez was clearly, enormously unfit. The lad was blowing after his first sprint, holding his hips and puffing out his cheeks!
“It was his third session, after his third sprint his lungs were ready to explode,” Klopp said post-match, while it must also be recognised Nunez is suffering with blisters, which is never nice.
He’s only just back from his holidays and clearly needs a full month to build up his base, which is exactly what he’ll get. Against us in the Champions League for Benfica last season, he ran the channels at will and was still sharp well into injury-time, so there’s no worries here at all. If anything, it was quite funny! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a footballer tire so quickly, although we have to remember they’re also playing in the heat and humidity of Bangkok.
Stylistically, we saw what can only be described as a traditional centre-forward. Nunez played between the centre-backs and right on the last-line – a big contrast to Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane before him who would drop off instead. Buying Nunez signals a potential change in our offensive shape and it’ll be interesting to see how the likes of Mo Salah and Luis Diaz react to a more focal striker, rather than a linkup man.
Nunez is quick. A few times he broke into sprints and you can see he can really move. If Trent Alexander-Arnold had played a better ball, the Uruguayan would’ve been through one-on-one within 30 seconds of coming onto the pitch. Positionally, it’s obvious he’s very switched on. The issue today was he didn’t have the energy to fight for second balls or to really battle with Eric Bailly, so to a casual viewer he probably looked a little lazy, but we know this not to be the case. After all, it’s pre-season – he doesn’t need to leave it all on the pitch and his duty is to provide once the season starts, not now.
The 23-year-old had a nice effort on goal, showing how cleanly he can strike a ball, but also missed a chance where he should’ve scored after Salah’s shot came back off the post. Nunez fired high and wide and shortly after, couldn’t quite get on the end of a delicious Trent cross – but again – he was in the right place.
There’ll be fans who are disappointed at his debut, but the signs are promising. Get this man fully fit and we’ve got a rapid forward who comes alive in the box and puts himself in the right positions to score. He could score a bucketload.
Luis Diaz has got it all… bar the finishing!
Remember Luis Suarez’s first 18 months at the club? He scored four goals in the second-half of his first season after arriving in January and then given his talent, a fairly modest 17 the next, before exploding in his final two.
There were genuine suggestions Suarez couldn’t finish early on. But he could, he’d just get unlucky. Constantly, he’d hit the woodwork. In his second season he hit the post 11 times in the Premier League.
There are shades of the early Liverpool Suarez about Luis Diaz, too. In his 30 minute cameo today, he hit the post twice and was easily the best player on the pitch. How many times did we say something similar last season?
He is so dynamic. So quick. So fun. He just doesn’t score anywhere near enough goals at the moment given the high-value shots he gets to take. This will change. He’s simply too talented for it not to click in the penalty box. Technique wise, he’s perfect and there is nothing wrong with how he shoots or where he tries to place it – it just hasn’t run for Diaz in the box yet.
My word though – what a footballer! And with his first full pre-season coming up, Diaz, like Nunez, will get himself more tactically aligned to the side and with a proper base level of fitness. From a Liverpool perspective, he also has the advantage of not going to the World Cup, so will be properly ready for the second-half of the campaign – as will Mo Salah, Kostas Tsimikas, Andy Robertson, Joel Matip, James Milner and likely Roberto Firmino, given he doesn’t get in the Brazil squad anymore.