Football News

Why Arne Slot to Liverpool puts make-or-break pressure on Darwin Nunez next season

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:11, 26 April 2024

It appears things are moving quickly in Liverpool’s quest to appoint Arne Slot as their replacement for Jurgen Klopp.

Reports claim Feyenoord are ready to conclude a deal this weekend but want £13m to release Slot from his contract. The fee is so high because Slot has no release clause. Dutch journalist Marcel van der Kraan told Talksport this week he is the best-paid manager in Eredivisie history.

Slot is now on record as saying he wants to join Liverpool, telling ESPN: “It seems clear to me that I would like to work there. All I can say about it is that the clubs are in negotiations. I’m in the waiting room.”

The Dutchman has been in charge of Feyenoord since 2021, taking over from Dick Advocaat, who had led the club to a fifth-placed finish, securing a spot in the Europa Conference League second qualifying round.

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In his maiden Feyenoord campaign, Slot led the team to the final of the Europa Conference League and a third-placed finish in the Eredivisie. Then, of course, last season came the Eredivisie success with Feyenoord losing just two games to finish seven points clear at the top of the table.

And Klopp appears optimistic about the move, telling reporters: “I like a lot about it, if he is the one, he must want to take the job.

“I like the way his team play football. All the things I hear about him as a guy, a good guy. Some people I know, know him, but I don’t know him yet. Some people tell me that he is a really good guy. I like that a lot.

“Good coach, good guy. Looking forward for the club if he is the solution or the man. I’m more than happy. It’s not up to me to judge these things but it all sounds really good to me.”

However, not everyone is as positive, with Jamie Carragher hoping for another name with Premier League experience.

“I would have given more thorough consideration to a coach like Thomas Tuchel who took on and beat Pep Guardiola in the ultimate test – a Champions League final,” Carragher said in his Telegraph column.

He added: “If another English club takes Tuchel, that would convince me they will significantly improve, but my sense is Liverpool don’t want a coach with a reputation for being fractious.

“I would prefer a proven winner who could be difficult to manage to a coach who might be easy to manage but still have everything to prove.”

But sticking with the optimism, fans are already dreaming of the players Slot could bring to Liverpool, as well as the improvements he will be able to make. We could see the rise of Jarell Quansah as a composed passing centre-back, which Slot needs, or the evolution of Ryan Gravenberch into more of a No.6.

And then there’s the Darwin Nunez question. At the moment, Nunez feels like marmite. You either love him or you hate him. According to reports, Chelsea were in talks to sign Nunez last summer, but Klopp vetoed the move.

It’s been an interesting season for Nunez. He has improved from last season, there’s no questioning that.

Last season, Nunez was directly involved in 12 goals in 29 Premier League matches, scoring nine and providing three assists. This season he’s on 19 direct goal involvements with 11 goals and eight assists in 32 matches. Per 90 minutes, that’s an improvement from 0.64 goal involvements to 0.86.

He is shooting more frequently (4.76 per 90 to 4.45) and hitting the target more (1.99 per 90 to 1.96), while also averaging a better xG at 0.72 per 90 to 0.64.

Despite the jump in assists, Nunez is slightly less creative with 1.45 chances created more 90 minutes this season compared to 1.48 last year. He is also attempting and completing fewer take-ons this season at 1.59 and 0.68 per 90, down from 1.96 and 0.95.

Nunez is also missing 1.18 big chances per 90 in the Premier League this season, with only Erling Haaland (30) missing more than his 26 across all players. But the difference is that Haaland has scored 16 big chances, while Nunez has only converted six.

In the Netherlands, Slot has the fantastic Santiago Gimenez leading the line at Feyenoord, scoring 21 goals in 29 Eredivisie matches. Last season he netted 15 in 32, which is still impressive considering it was his first campaign in European football. In 20 fewer games for Feyenoord, Gimenez has already more-than doubled his tally for Mexican club Cruz Azul, netting 21 goals in 105 games for his first team.

So there may be Liverpool fans hoping for Nunez to have a similar turn around to Gimenez. But it may be a question of whether Nunez can deal with tough love.

When it comes to criticism, Klopp is very protective of his players, very rarely — if at all — singling out stars after poor performances. Any critique is purely left for the dressing room and training pitch.

But Slot is different. Earlier this year he singled Gimenez out for criticism, with the Mexican in a poor run of form.

“He contributed a lot last season and he also scored a lot of goals this season. That’s why he has a lot of credit, also among the fans. We expect more from him and he knows it,” Slot said of Gimenez after a game against AZ, that Feyenoord did win.

Klopp has, instead, dubbed the current form of Nunez and Mohamed Salah as ‘tricky’ while insisted all forwards go through poor form.

“It is tricky, strikers have to go through these things. That’s how it is, that’s a striker’s life,” he told reporters ahead of the weekend.

“Goalkeeper’s life is make 500 saves and one howler, and everybody talks about this. Striker’s life you score all the time then you don’t score for a while, and everybody asks you why you don’t score.”

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