Darwin Nunez has the same amount of Premier League goals as Gabriel Jesus this season but in 600 fewer minutes.
Overall, he has nine goals and two assists in 18 appearances, even more impressive when you consider eight of these games were as a substitute.
He is averaging a goal contribution every 88 minutes of football.
Categorically, he is not a flop. Anyone who suggests otherwise hasn’t really been paying much attention – and it’s great to see.
With Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz injured, we’ve needed Nunez to step up. The truth is that had those two attackers been available, Nunez might not have started games like the one he did at home to Southampton on Saturday, so although damaging for the team and a contributory factor in our losses to Nottingham Forest and Leeds, their injuries were a blessing in disguise for the Uruguayan.
He’s had a proper run in the side and is relishing it, proving a goalscorer from the left inside-forward position.
Long-term, the thought is that Nunez will play centrally, but he has more grass to gallop into from the left and he seems to stretch defences more effectively in this position, as he’s always available for a fast, forward pass from Andy Robertson at left-back or whoever’s in midfield.
No player has ever faced scrutiny and online bullying upon arriving in the Premier League to the extent Nunez did. There have never been fail compilations about a player’s pre-season training clips and a few misses in summer friendlies before Liverpool signed the 23-year-old. The desperation for him to fail from rivals was stratospheric. So much so, it filtered into the media who recognised they could get easy clicks and eyes from ‘Darwin Nunez = not very good’ content. It got to the lad, too. You could tell as much from his social media posts and his desperation to impress. That desperation led to rash decisions, like the head-butt that saw him red-carded against Crystal Palace and some of the poor finishing that plagued early appearances.
But he’s settled in, now. His team-mates recognise it, too.
“Coming over to the Premier League, with the price tag on his back, was going to be a heavy weight. It took him a few games to get going but we all saw in training the player he is” Trent Alexander-Arnold told the Echo.
“He’s a proper centre-forward with speed but was playing on the wing today, he’s versatile. We saw what he could do and he’s hit a stride now, he’s enjoying his football.”
The crowd love him, as well. ‘Nunez! Nunez!’ isn’t the most inventive chant but it fills Anfield with energy. Everyone knows the words, too. You can tell the striker loves it. The nastiness Nunez received from outside has strengthened his bond with Liverpool fans.
He’s not hard to love, because he’s a superb footballer. Occasionally, it doesn’t look especially beautiful. He doesn’t control a ball or stroke it around like Thiago. He thumps it, heads it or stretches for it with both legs when a fullback crosses into the box. It works. Physically, he’s insanely gifted. Standing at 6ft.2′ Nunez, is the fastest recorded player in Premier League history and probably one of the strongest.
He can strike the ball with both feet and as mentioned, he’s glorious in the air. We don’t have any other players in his mould and with an ageing side, we need his youth and speed right now.
There’s a feeling the World Cup actually comes at a bad time for him from a Liverpool perspective, given he’s now a fully-fledged starter and is forming an excellent on-pitch relationship with Mo Salah. But starting alongside Luis Suarez on the world stage won’t do him any harm. And if Uruguay get knocked out early, a few weeks in Dubai with Jurgen Klopp and his staff at Liverpool’s ‘second pre-season’ won’t do him any harm either.
The haters have gone quiet. You can’t blame them, there isn’t much to laugh at anymore. As he learns the language and the league, he’s only going to get better. £85m might end up being a snip.