Rio Ferdinand has admitted that he was ‘surprised’ by one team selection call that Jurgen Klopp made in Liverpool’s defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.
Cody Gakpo came into the side for his first Premier League start since Boxing Day, with Darwin Nunez dropping to the bench despite registering a goal contribution in four successive top-flight matches, although the Uruguayan was introduced in place of his fellow attacker just before the hour mark.
Speaking on Vibe with Five, the former England defender was taken aback by the Dutchman’s presence in the starting XI ahead of his fellow 24-year-old.
Ferdinand said of that particular selection from Klopp: “I’ve got to be honest, I was surprised when I saw the team come out. I was like, if I was a defender on the opposite team at Arsenal, I’d have been happy with that.
“Darwin Nunez has been on some smoke. He hasn’t been maybe scoring all the goals that everyone’s going mad about, but he’s causing havoc. He’s ruffling feathers.
“I watched him against Chelsea. He didn’t score, but they couldn’t handle him. It would have been a different story up front. Gakpo’s a decent player, but he isn’t the way Nunez is, running in behind all the time.”
It may have seemed surprising that Nunez was omitted from the starting XI given his effectiveness of late, but perhaps Klopp felt that Gakpo would’ve been better suited to lead the line against Arsenal.
In truth, neither of the forwards played anywhere near their best yesterday – just like Liverpool in general – with the Uruguayan slicing one chance well wide and picking up a (harsh) late yellow card, while the Dutchman took just 23 touches and completed a mere six passes in almost 60 minutes on the pitch (Sofascore).
We can only speculate as to whether things would’ve transpired differently had the manager persevered with the Reds’ number 9 up top to start, but Klopp has earned more than enough trust for us to have faith in whatever team selection he sees fit.
Yesterday’s match is gone, so all we can do now is work towards a huge improvement against Burnley next Saturday and ensure that the Arsenal game is nothing more than a rare off-day.