Darwin Nunez might end up looking like a flop to start his Liverpool career. The data says the Reds must be patient, however.
Darwin Nunez hasn’t set the world alight with his first couple of friendlies in a Liverpool shirt. There’s clearly room to grow and it might take a little while for him to adjust to the team.
In fact, the club – and fans – may need to accept that as almost an inevitability. Data certainly suggests as much when you go back and look at Nunez at Benfica.
The Uruguayan got his move to Portugal after thriving for Alméria in the Spanish Segunda division. Nunez scored 16 goals and simply looked like a livewire at 20, with his stats looking very encouraging.
He averaged just over three shots per game, says Statsbomb data on FBref. Nunez also hit the target with over 47% of his shots and 28% of those found the net.
Then came a record transfer to Benfica and the player struggled at first. Nunez suddenly averaged 2.8 shots per 90 and hit the target only 40% of the time. 26% of those on-target shots still found the net – so the finishing ability was still there – but he wasn’t as able to find opportunities as easily.
Nunez’s second season with Benfica saw everything improve across the board. More shots, more on target, and 50% of his on-target shots went in. That’s an incredible jump and the stats easily show why Liverpool made him their ‘first-choice’ signing, in Jurgen Klopp’s words.
But together, this data shows that Nunez might be in for a slow start.
Darwin Nunez could look like a flop
So Nunez appears to take time to adjust to a new club and Liverpool is not an easy place to do that adjustment. In fact, two club greats in Andy Robertson and Fabinho struggled badly to get up to speed.
Robertson is arguably the best left-back we’ve ever seen at Anfield but he wasn’t a regular starter until the December after he arrived. And even then, it took an injury to Alberto Moreno before he got that chance.
Fabinho wasn’t trusted to start a game in Liverpool’s 4-3-3 until the March after he arrived. In fact, Klopp barely played him at all for months after his arrival. The Brazilian just didn’t click.
Naby Keita is another fine example of a wonderfully talented player who sometimes struggles to replicate his previous good form in a Liverpool shirt. The Reds ask a lot of new players and it’s not easy for them.
So when you take someone like Nunez who has previous for those struggles, it’s easy to see why he might take some time to find himself. We imagine there will be plenty of claims that he’s a flop, much as we previously saw with Robertson and Fabinho.
Patience, as Benfica showed, will likely pay dividends, though. Nunez has ended up being a massive success everywhere he’s gone and we know he can deliver on the big stage. Liverpool just need to do what they can to make this transition as easy as possible.