Football News

Jurgen Klopp highlights Darwin Nunez’s “problem” amid speculation over Liverpool future

By Harry Edwards

Published: 12:41, 10 May 2024

Jurgen Klopp has highlighted what he believes to be Darwin Nunez’s biggest problem at Liverpool this season.

Liverpool are still mathematically able to win the Premier League title going into the penultimate weekend of the season, but their extremely slim hopes could be over before they kick off on Monday. Realistically, the Reds have already settled for third, with a poor run of form putting paid to their challenge.

The Reds have won just two of their past six Premier League games, drawing two and losing two. The killer moment came at the end of April, starting with Liverpool losing the Merseyside Derby to Everton at Goodison Park.

In that game, Liverpool missed three big chances, with Nunez, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah all responsible. A few days later, Liverpool drew 2-2 with West Ham, coming from behind before giving up a lead.

Another key moment, before this run, was a 1-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace, again with big chances missed. This time there were four, with Nunez, Salah, Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota the guilty parties.

Big chances missed is a metric many use to paint strikers, or forwards in general, in a bad light. For those unaware, Opta defines big chances as “a situation where a player sound reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter.”

In the Premier League this season, just one player has missed more big chances than Nunez’s 27. The name might surprise some, as Erling Haaland has missed 32 big chances in the Premier League this season. In fact, no player in Europe’s top five leagues has missed more big chances than Haaland, with Nunez joint-second alongside Harry Kane.

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Klopp believes one of the reasons Nunez keeps missing the big chances, and getting criticism for it, is that he is good enough to get in the situations.

“His problem is that he is that good that he is constantly in these moments and it’s so obvious. If he was a little bit less good, then he wouldn’t have chances and people would just say it is not great,” Klopp told reporters.

“Because he is that good, he is in these moments where he can finish it off but now he isn’t finishing it off in the moment. How many goals did he score? Oh, 18?

“I think he’s not too bad with numbers. 18 and 11 (in the Premier League). They’re not bad numbers. It’s just because of his quality and constantly in these situations.

“Everybody is saying, ‘oh, not again!’ Because of our situation as a team where we had chances and didn’t score unfortunately, if somebody else had scored in that moment, it wouldn’t have felt as bad. That’s the situation. Nobody likes it but it’s part of a career.”

In the Premier League this season, only Haaland (51) and Alexander Isak (35) have had more big chances than Nunez’s 33. When you look across Europe’s top five leagues, Nunez is still in the top 10.

Nunez has had at least one big chance in 20 of his 34 Premier League appearances, registering at least two eight times. There have been bad games, including against Luton and Aston Villa in the first half of the season, where Nunez failed to convert any of his three big chances. But then the Uruguayan would have a match like his appearance against Bournemouth where he scored both of his big chances.

But while Klopp is right that Nunez is good enough to get himself in positions for big chances, the Uruguayan does miss too many. He has scored just six of his 33 big chances, with a big chance conversion of just 18.18%.

Among players with at least 20 big chances in the Premier League this season, that’s the worst conversion rate, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin the second-worst with 25%. Even though Haaland’s is fairly average at 37.25%, he makes up for it may having a lot more big chances to score.

Penalties do also always count as big chances, so Haaland’s record from the spot will help there. That’s also the reason why Cole Palmer leads the way for big chance conversion among players with 20+ big chances, scoring 71.43%.

Nunez has been linked with a move away from Liverpool this summer, calling time to a frustrating spell in England, but Klopp did dispel rumours.