The overriding factor in judging Darwin Nunez last year had nothing to do with him. He had the misfortune of being a big-money forward purchased at the same time as Erling Haaland.
One, Haaland is an alien. Two, Haaland, even if he is younger somehow, had four seasons in Europe under his belt, including a couple in a top five league with Borussia Dortmund, as well as being the son of a former player, before showing up at City. He was just more grounded in the top of the game. Nunez had two seasons in Portugal. He just had more development to do.
Certainly, his first season for Liverpool provided a lot of fodder for both sides of the argument. On one side, the metrics suggested this was a destructive player who just needed time to put it all together. No one generated more shots and chances than Nunez last year on a per 90 basis. Everything seemed to happen when he was on the field.
On the other side, everything seemed to happen when he was on the field. Those shots and chances didn’t get buried, passes that were obvious didn’t get made, and every game just seem to go plaid when he came on the field. The rest of the team’s collapse certainly didn’t help matters. While Nunez inarguably did a lot of good things on the field last year, after his big transfer he didn’t grab the No. 9 role by the throat and the fact that “SO MUCH” happened both good and bad when he was around, he got the nickname of “The Chaos Himbo.” His pace and power caused defenses problems, his affinity for hitting everything as hard as he possibly could spurned a fair amount of chances, it was all just so wonderfully unpredictable and loud.
That seems to have changed so far this season.
Oh, there’s still chaos, don’t you worry. Because Nunez can miss this chance:
And then a couple minutes later bury this one:
This is a marvelous goal. The ball is coming over his right shoulder and not only does he track it, but gets a deft enough contact to chip the keeper into the opposite corner. It’s 12 times harder than what was basically a penalty he duffed right before this.
This is the Nunez experience.
But what Jurgen Klopp will point to is how much else Nunez is doing. Last year, Nunez basically hung out on the defensive line of the opponent, waiting to be sent in behind by a pass, or got into the penalty area waiting for service. Now look around:
Twice as many progressive passes per 90 (3.20 from 1.54).
Twice as many passes into the penalty area (1.60 from 0.64).
Three times as many tackles in the attacking third (0.80 from 0.27).
Double the challenges made and attempted overall.
More touches in the attacking third and the attacking penalty area.
Nunez is doing a lot of the things that Cody Gakpo did that caused the latter to replace him as the central striker in Liverpool’s system in the second half of last season. That is dropping deep to link with the midfield, or linking with his two wide forwards far better, or initiating the press far better from both around the other penalty area or even deeper on the field. And he’s done all that while producing even more shots and more shots on target per 90.
This season, it’s been all good chaos.
What else went down in the sixth round of Premier League action? Let’s make it hot.
4. Arsenal continue to claim the chaos crown
Arsenal games shouldn’t feel like this. And by any measure, they don’t. They’re second best in the Premier League so far in xGA, and fourth-best in goals conceded. They’re second best in shots against and shots on target against.
And yet it feels like when teams need it, they’ll find a goal against them. Especially when Declan Rice gets hurt. Then again, Arsenal will find the goal they need, too. Still, tossing away two leads to the Spurs at home isn’t something that they’ll feel particularly great about.
They got a lucky bounce when Christian Romero ping-ponged one into his own net. But 16 minutes later, Heung-min Son was allowed all this:
That’s three defenders Son found space between to finish that James Maddison cross.
It got more silly in the second half when Arsenal had to bring off Declan Rice. After getting somewhat lucky for a penalty (we’ll come back to this), it wasn’t even a minute later until Jorginho lost the feeling in his feet:
God that’s a cool finish from Son. Effortless. What a man, Son is officially my soccer Jarome Iginla, a player I’ll love forever though he’ll never play for my favorite team and I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering what if he did.
Anyway, the Gunners huffed and puffed after that but never threatened all that much, only getting one shot on target the rest of the way. Spurs also had a problem once Son and Maddison were taken off, as they pretty much carry the team’s entire attacking threat right now. Lots for both to solve from a very secure place, though.
Also, shoutout to Eddie Nketiah for one of the more pointless clatterings of a goalkeeper that probably should have gotten him sent off, but was high on the comedy scale. He was like four seconds late on this one.
3. On the USMNT tip…
Antonee Robinson was magnificent on Saturday at Crystal Palace, and magnificent defensively which isn’t usually what we think of when considering his usual game:
It felt like every five minutes Robinson was using his speed to close on a Palace player either just outside or just inside the Fulham box and dispossessing them. Just everywhere.
2. Lucas Paqueta is once again proving I don’t know much
When Brazil bit it in the quarterfinals of the last World Cup, I often reflected that even though they were the favorite before the tournament, the age of Brazil boasting at least half of a lineup that featured the best player in the world at their position were probably over. They were a good team, but they were mostly filled with players that were just good instead of galactic. Paqueta was first and foremost on that list, a regular starter for Brazil who just seemed like a guy. He was, at the time, the third-best midfielder for West Ham. What was to get excited about?
Paqueta was The Flash against Liverpool, just popping up on every blade of grass to win the ball or make a pass. West Ham sold one midfielder in Declan Rice that did absolutely everything from guarding the back four to generating the attack. They somehow replaced him with another player able to do that from within, which is kind of mind-boggling.
1. Is the extra time really about VAR?
The Premier League was boasting last week about how their extended injury time has boosted action in every match by 12 minutes, while increasing the drama by extending the window in which injury time goals, which change results, can take place. Games are certainly longer, and officials are sure that time-wasting is down even though yellow cards for it are up. But the point of the boosted injury time, in the end, is to change behavior, and get rid of time-wasting.
So how much is VAR warping injury time? Spurs-Arsenal, Chelsea-Villa, and a couple other matches had obscene injury time amounts thanks to marathon video reviews. And wrong ones, really,
What was Christian Romero supposed to do here?
Ever try and slide without your arms flying up?
For Chelsea, who were once again insipid, they were kind of jobbed, too. This isn’t a tackle on a player with the ball. Malo Gusto and Villa’s Lucas Digne are both running in for a loose ball, which Gusto wins. Slow this down enough and watch it enough and you’ll get transfixed on the follow-through, and it looks an obvious red. But it’s actually Digne who’s late here:
Anyway, these reviews are still taking way too long, because if it’s clear and obvious it should be clear and obvious within a matter of seconds, not minutes. And it feels like that’s where the mutant injury times are coming from, not making up for time wasting.
Follow Sam on Twitter 9-22 Fels TMA
Original source here
#Darwin #Nunez #figuring