Editor’s Column: How does Arne Slot channel Uruguay’s Darwin Nunez?

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It’s funny… If Darwin Nunez was never signed by Jurgen Klopp and fans this summer were watching this lethal, physical behemoth of a striker score every game for Uruguay, they’d be clamouring for Michael Edwards and Richard Hughes to bring him to Liverpool.

Nunez is on fire for his country. He’s scored in seven consecutive games for Uruguay, the best record since Hector Sacrone in 1928.

These goals have come in big matches against big opponents, too. He’s fired past Colombia, Brazil, Argentina. He scored a hat-trick against Mexico and is two from two so far in the Copa America against Panama and Bolivia.

The problem for many Liverpool fans is that they didn’t see a striker capable of anything close at the end of the season. The Uruguay Nunez is an enigma, and became even more of one as last term fizzled out.

At the end of 2023/24, he went ten matches without a goal. You can’t do that as a Liverpool attacker. And it wasn’t like he didn’t get the chances to do so. His confidence was below zero and his finishing was lower.

From the high of the winning goal against Nottingham Forest in March, which was halfway through a run of 11 goals and five assists in 15 games, Nunez fell off a cliff.


Well, in fairness, his team-mates collectively collapsed as well. The legs ran out. The decisions being made became more frantic and the pressure to sign off Klopp’s tenure with a Premier League title was clearly too much. By the time Liverpool lost 2-0 to Everton at Goodison Park, it was over.

Many Liverpool fans suggest the trigger for the downfall was Nunez’s silly mistake against Manchester United in the FA Cup, where he gave the ball away needlessly at 3-2 up in Extra Time. They went and scored and then grabbed a winner. It was a bad error, but it wasn’t the only one. Mo Salah, for example, had a worse end of season run than he did – but with less negative defining moments.

It did seem that the relationship between Nunez and Klopp soured a little. The striker deleted any connection to Liverpool from his social media accounts after online abuse circled and Klopp brought Cody Gakpo back into the team at his expense.

Klopp leaving is of course not a net-positive, but it might be good for Nunez.

After all, he thrives under Marcelo Bielsa at international level. Who knows what makes Nunez tick? He’s a complicated, emotional, sensitive footballer. He’s frenetic, occasionally foolish, childish and incompetent – with the penchant for genuine brilliance – thanks to a ludicrous skill set full of physical, movement and ball-striking attributes.

Remember, when Slot arrived, Liverpool loudly leaked to the on-beat journalists that Nunez was very much part of his plans. There would be no talk of a sale. Slot would happily have a crack at getting the best out of him.

Bielsa plays a 4-2-3-1 formation with Uruguay, with Nunez up top, but allowed to run the left-channel. This is probably his best position. Not solely up top or on the left-wing, but a combination of both, like Thierry Henry for Arsenal. Slot also played 4-2-3-1 with Feyenoord.

Watching his Uruguay goals as a Liverpool fan is genuinely frustrating. Right-foot, left-foot, headed goals, with power and precision.

A lot of them though show him doing exactly what he does for Liverpool; hitting it hard and on target. They go through the keepers’ legs or just past him and everyone says, ‘great finish’. But he isn’t really aiming here. Last season, a crazy amount of efforts Nunez had were good, strong contacts on targets that simply hit the keeper. Could he be more subtle? Yes. But was he unlucky? Absolutely. And don’t get me started on the number of times he hit the woodwork…

His issue is that every bit of bad luck saw his confidence drop, and the more this happened, the less likely it became that his next shot would hit the net.

With Uruguay, the opposite is happening. A brilliant summer with Uruguay will hopefully see Nunez hit the ground running in pre-season with Slot.

If he turns up bristling with energy and excitement to work under a new boss, it might just click.

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