Free Friday & Liverpool FC News, Media and Transfer Roundup – 20th Jan 2023
Hodgson the Legend, Young Blood Brilliance & Soldier or Scout?
Free Friday will cover our work across The Tomkins Times’ Substack network, with it running via an opt-in or opt-out newsletter on The Main Hub (where almost all of the community commenting takes place), but covering TTT’s four sub-Substacks, or spokes.
Also make sure you check out Daniel Zambartas’ media round-up, which will be added to best of TTT from the previous week.
Best Comment of the Week
Another brilliant long term TTT subscriber - Jon Rushton - this week, after the win over Wolves in the FA Cup.
We looked solid! And I mean that as a compliment. Made Wolves work much harder for their chances than in recent matches, the press worked four or five times in the first half and when the was played into the box there was never a situation where the attacking Wolves player wasn’t under pressure.
Good moments of possession in the first half. I’d say looking across their performances as a whole, Carvalho just looks better on and off the ball than Ox in that left-sided role.
Too soon to make any judgement of Gakpo, but I do miss the chaos of Darwin Nunez marauding around the pitch at high pace! Gakpo does look like he’s positionally very good when the opposition have the ball, but is clearly adjusting in attack - ran too early a couple of times, came short when the ball went long etc.
Bajcetic was tired at the end, but he really does look like a brilliant player. Doak has amazing close control to go with his speed.
Hard to predict the line up against Chelsea - I hope a couple of the younger players keep their places.
TTT Main Hub
First up is Paul’s look at the rumours Liverpool were interested in signing Ruben Neves in January.
A look at Neves, and comparing him to what Liverpool have (and what Liverpool's numbers show is lacking), suggests that he ticks a lot of boxes; some of them surprisingly so. And there are lots of connections to Liverpool between Wolves and Neves that make any interest credible, whether or not a deal gets done.
The first bit of what follows is perhaps lost in the replies on the Transfer Thread, but I'll tidy it further and share it again here, along with some of the basic scouting data, then some new thoughts, along with the data for other players.
Albeit in a team with less possession than Liverpool, Neves’ defensive metrics are (to me) all surprisingly excellent.
Lots of tackles, interceptions, blocks, etc. Around the 90th percentile, as an average for tackles, interceptions, blocks and clearances (ranging from 75th-97th percentile) across top five leagues, and well ahead of Fabinho, based on the past 365 days of data on FBRef.
Next up is another reaction to the victory midweek, this time looking at the impressive and improving young players who played and could be a key part of the Reds’ future.
Energy. Pressing. Movement. Interplay. Invention. And a nice compact shape, designed to soak up pressure and control the game; made all the easier after the early goal.
Without creating lots of chances (given the absence of five main goalscorers, with only one fit for the bench), Liverpool played extremely well with a young, largely inexperienced side.
A 1-0 win at Wolves with maybe only three first-team shoo-ins is a sign of the potential these younger players have.
The average age was 25.4, some 3.3 years younger than the team that surrendered so alarmingly at Brighton. James Milner alone raised the average age last night by 1.1 years, but he played like he was 24 again.
The team that started the season, at Fulham, was a horrific 29.4, which should have been a red flag. (Again, I don't criticise Jürgen Klopp much, and rarely over selections as I never have all the information a manager can have, but as I said at the time, Ibrahima Konaté surely should have been ahead of the excellent but ageing and slower Joël Matip in preseason, and not picking up a kick to his knee in the "B" team. A lot of the time the team has had to be on the old side, due to the skew of injuries hitting mostly those aged 27 and younger.)
Finally there’s the match thread produced by Gary every game, and it allows TTT subscribers to discuss the game live and then react post-match; we all speculate about line-ups and tactics beforehand as well!
Chris’s weekly piece focuses on arguably the Reds’ greatest ever goalscorer - Gordon Hodgson - but one rarely mentioned when the debate surfaces. Some of his scoring stats are incredible…
If asked about Liverpool's all-time great goalscorers, certain names are sure to come up – Ian Rush, Roger Hunt, Billy Liddell, Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Kenny Dalglish, Michael Owen, even Mohammed Salah.
The odds are that one of Liverpool's and indeed the Football League's greatest-ever goalscorers won't even get a mention. But Gordon Hodgson is 3rd on Liverpool's all-time goalscorers list, behind only Rush and Hunt, and ahead of all those other illustrious names. Only one, Roger Hunt, has scored more League goals for Liverpool, but unlike Sir Roger, all of Hodgson's 233 League goals came in the First Division, from 358 games, and his total of 241 goals came in just 377 appearances - a phenomenal goals-per-game ratio. Liverpool's all-time top scorer, Ian Rush, scored 229 league goals out of his total of 346.
Over the next nine seasons, Hodgson scored prolifically. Unfortunately, this goalscoring exploits coincided with a barren period for the club – the 1920s and 30s was an era of no silverware, and Hodgson's goals made those barren years between the wars unbearable, not least as it was an era when the Red half of Merseyside found itself in the shadow of the Blues. Hodgson at least gave the grateful Kop a riposte whenever Evertonians were bragging about their goalscoring legend of the time, Dixie Dean. There's no doubt Hodgson's contribution to the Liverpool cause was massive - no wonder he was idolised by the fans on the Kop. The 36 League goals he scored in the 1930/31 season beat Sam Raybould’s 1902/03 club record total of 31. Hodgson's feat would not be beaten for over thirty years, until Hunt came on the scene. Hodgson scored three hat-tricks that season at Anfield and four goals in an away match at Hillsborough. He was top-scorer in seven out of the nine whole seasons he played at Liverpool.
This Red Planet
The next article by me on TRP was a look - in reference to our reactions to this season and Liverpool’s struggles - at Julia Galef’s book ‘The Scout Mindset’.
Before explaining the core tenets presented ask yourself one question: do you know why Liverpool are failing this season? Have you argued with anyone about your conviction? Did you highlight their clear cognitive biases? Did the debate feel like a battle? Did their argument have any merit or valid points you agreed on? Well, hopefully, some of the key issues raised by Julia Galef in this book will be helpful in not only analysing what’s going wrong with our club at the moment (and crucially that those in charge also use these approaches) but also help when discussing it with Liverpool fans as well as supporters of other clubs!
What are the key points?
Galef highlights two key aspects of how we think - and react - when defending our own opinions: the Scout and Soldier Mindsets. This is particularly pertinent in the world of football fandom. Is often feels like we are “at war” with others - even fellow Liverpool fans - when it comes to discussing transfers, owners, new contracts for players, individual matches, tactics, and ticket prices. The list of potential disagreements is huge, and we’ve all been involved in them at one point or another. What first attracted me to The Tomkins Times was the fact it was a debate - and the key forum rule was ‘play the ball’, with no personal insults tolerated. It creates a context for nuance, for a wide range of opinion and encourages subscribers to get involved without risk of ‘being taken out’. The complete opposite to how football debates had existed previously in my life. Nevertheless, this season, with our beloved club failing, it appears that even some on TTT are falling victim to the Soldier Mindset. But before exploring that though, let’s dig into more detail about each type of mindset discussed in the book.
The Zen Den
Paul looked at Klopp’s reaction to the defeat against Brighton, focusing on the leadership skills of our boss in trying circumstances.
It was just such an oddly grim display – Brighton didn't have 20 chances, but they dominated every aspect of the game, and the Reds were toothless, and looked clueless.
The one clear positive is that the situation has to change, as I noted in the piece.
Another is that Klopp can see the problems, and isn't trying to silver-coat a turd. Also, he has made it clear that the problems are well known, and being addressed; but that in football, you can't wave a magic wand. In the midst of an injury crisis, a confidence crisis has arisen.
I'd love to see how Liverpool were playing right now if everyone was fit, and then the changes from the bench, but clearly the midfield lacks energy, no matter who is in there. And the team as a whole looks hungover from the excessive effort of last season.
Diogo Jota is back in light training ahead of a return next month (all being well), and add him, Luis Díaz, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk back to equation (and even Arthur Melo, should we ever get to see him), and there are suddenly more options with how to play; more pace; and more options to change things.
Adding a new midfielder this January would also help, but while there are bargains to be had and deals to be struck (Díaz last year, Cody Gakpo this year), it's not the ideal time to find the ideal solution, if lots of boxes have to be ticked.
There’s a free snippet below of Mizgan’s look at another Reds midfield target, Teun Koopmeiners, from Atalanta.
This section will have Koopmeiners’ numbers in the Serie A this season, ranked amongst the CM/DMs of the league. Players with a minimum of 750 minutes under their belt are included for sample size purposes.
The numbers produced in each metric give us a further indication of what type of Koopmeiners is. He is pretty good at offensive metrics, along with creating chances and taking people on. He is more than decent in winning defensive duels as well (over 50% is considered good in defensive duels win rate).
According to Soccerment, among the midfield playmakers in the Serie A this season, the 24-year-old leads the table in Expected Threat from Ball Carries and Passes (0.04 and 0.13 per 90 respectively).
Liverpool News, Media & Transfer Round-Up:
(Click on title of each section for link to original article)
Miguel Delaney in the Independent on LFC issues
“Liverpool are feeling the inevitable effects of having to keep up with a sportswashing project in Manchester City for so long. They consistently pushed themselves past the expected limits of performance, and that just can’t be done indefinitely. It might even be having its toll on an inconsistent City now.
“Consequently, they are said to be “exhausted”, pushed to that limit by Klopp’s continuous physical and mental demands. The players and manager are of course still trying to do it all to the same level, but it’s simply impossible to do so with the same intensity. That is the sort of energy that can only come at very specific stages of a team’s cycle. There needs to be a mental freshness and either a sense of growth or peak integration. Liverpool instead look stale.
“The feeling that this Liverpool team might be coming to an end was being aired in the immediate aftermath of the 2022 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. That only grew over the summer, to the extent that an increasing number of sources spoke about a “worrying atmosphere internally” into August. The publication of Pep Lijnders’ book surprised some at the club and wasn’t universally popular.
“Darwin Nunez causes chaos, both for the opposition and his own club. His signing follows Thiago as the second major attempt at evolution in terms of personnel, but it hasn’t yet been close to coming together. It is like he is on a different wavelength. Questions have similarly grown over whether he even has the talent ceiling that Sadio Mane did, given the price.
“For all that Mohamed Salah and Van Dijk have dominated this Liverpool era, some at the club believe that the Senegalese was the team’s best player and hasn’t been adequately replaced. Others have been keen to make something else clear: that it was Klopp who wanted Nunez. This is where the biggest questions lie over what next, especially as it is believed FSG no longer want to spend more than the club is bringing in.
“A shift also comes at a point where the German just isn’t getting the same responses from the players. While Klopp is one of the most charismatic and admired figures in the wider game, the perception of his own squad has always been more complicated. He is rarely as gregarious as he appears in those public bear hugs. He can be cutting and stern, and doesn’t always explain decisions in a way they feel fair. Others say Klopp can be “difficult to work with” and spiky with those outside his immediate circle, something that everyone of course overlooks when it brings astounding overperformance.”
“It was the reaction we needed to show. We were compact, we were together, we had really good challenges, won challenges when we lost the ball and we played really good football in moments. We scored an exceptional goal where Harvey saw something that I think not a lot of people in the stadium would have saw. If I was a goalie, I wouldn’t have expected a shot in that moment. It was a top goal, but apart from that the game was much better, completely different to the last one obviously and I am really happy with that.
“All the individual performances were good and we were really together wherever we were. We won the ball higher up the pitch, we won it in the midfield and it was good. I said to the boys after the game that’s how it feels when you play well and win. We can't remember it really anymore when that was the case, but tonight it was the case and we are quite happy.”
On Stefan Bajcetic: “Good player, very smart in his movements. Especially the younger you are, the more important it is that you have a good start in the game. He had a few situations where I am not sure he saw there was space or he just hoped there was space when he turned – and there was actually space. He did really well, but what helps really is that he wins these challenges. The last few steps before he has to block the ball, that's really good. Having then Thiago next to him is, I think, pretty helpful – Thiago is talking a lot on the pitch – and Naby was really there tonight, which is obviously very helpful.”
On Harvey Elliott’s performance as a forward : “When he plays well, I like him everywhere, so that’s easy. But both wingers did well. Especially Fabio, I don’t know when he played last time, so he did really well. And Harvey, from that position you need to score goals, that’s clear. For us, we had tonight, if you want, one striker on the pitch and he played slightly deeper in a lot of moments but that's very important. What Harvey had to do today, that's very important. Both wingers had to do that, plus the nine had to do that.”
On James Milner's display: “Top. I think the oldest and the youngest were really exceptional. How I said, it's then really important in a game like this that you don’t get carried away, because the boys did well. Yes, we dropped a bit deeper, I didn't like that too much, Wolves came up a little bit. In the moment when you let Neves in the game and it changes everything pretty much and then when Nunes is on the pitch as well then it's like twice as difficult and we did really well. But that we changed, we just had to be serious and sensible, let me say it like this, that we really do that in the right moments because none of the players I took off I wanted to take off – I think we had to but I think we were early enough.”
On potential changes to the team for Chelsea game: “I hope that Darwin is coming back in training tomorrow or Thursday, so he might be then in contention, of course. Kosti got a knock in the back and stuff like this, so let's see how they recover and stuff like this. But, of course, we are not in a casting show but anyway we have now this game and then we have four days to train and then after that I think five or six days to train until the next game.
“Training is always like this – who shows up in training. I'm not blind but usually we don't train, we play every three days and then we recover, some do a little bit. And on top of that, in the past we won quite a lot of games, so why would you make drastic changes? But anyway, we rotate a lot because the players were available. But, of course, the door is open for everybody. We have to fight. Who is ready to fight has a good chance to play.”
Kelleher on Wolves performance
“The last few days have been about getting back to basics, making sure we’re compact and hard to break down,” he told Liverpoolfc.com. “I think we showed we’re capable of doing that.
“The most important thing was the result and I think we bounced back really well from the weekend. That was the main idea tonight – to bounce back and put in a good performance. I feel we did that.
“The team shape was really good, really strong. We didn’t have many shots or chances conceded. The whole team did very well.”
On Elliott’s superb winning goal, Kelleher added: “It was an unreal strike. Harvey was brilliant for the whole game and that goal just summed up his performance. The clean sheet was important for us, and the goal was a stunner.”
“It was a hard-fought away win,” Kelleher said. “Sometimes you just need to grind out results and that’s what we did tonight. We showed some great character.
“I think getting a clean sheet and a win tonight will fill us full of confidence and hopefully we can use this result to push on.
“We look forward to the next game at the weekend [against Chelsea] and hopefully build from there.”
Alexander-Arnold on Brighton defeat
"I suppose if you try to put a positive spin on things then it's something we can use as motivation. We don’t want anything like this to happen again and we need to bounce back – that’s something that is a given at this point now. We need to bounce back in the next one.
"It's not what we wanted as a team and it just wasn’t good enough, if I’m honest, in any area of the pitch – all areas, to be honest. It wasn’t good enough.
"Credit to Brighton, they're a top team and they played outstandingly well. So, they deserved the three points and we didn’t.
"I think there were a lot of things wrong fundamentally and we got a lot of things wrong out there. Not many positives, if any, to take from this game, but we go back and look at what went wrong and make sure something like this doesn’t happen again because, like I said, this was completely unacceptable."
Jordan Henderson on Brighton defeat
“I thought Brighton were better than us in all departments, to be honest. It's a real low point for us today as a team. We need to stay together. There's an honest bunch of lads in there and it's a tough moment for us as a team, for sure, but we need to get together, we need to stay together and try to change things really quickly because the games are coming thick and fast and we need to try to learn from the day as best we can and show a reaction.
On the mood in the dressing room: “Not good, as you can imagine. Pretty low, low on confidence – you can see that when we're playing – energy levels low, everything. Like I said, it's no good feeling sorry for ourselves. I've been through moments like this in my career and you've got to keep fighting, you've got to keep going and hopefully we can change it sooner rather than later.”
Jurgen Klopp’s 1000th game as a manager
“Jurgen Klopp will celebrate his 1,000th game as a manager on Saturday when Liverpool host Chelsea.
“The 55-year-old has an outstanding win percentage of 53.9%, rising to 60.7% when taking into account just the 410 games in charge of the Reds.League leaders Arsenal are the English team he has faced most during his career, winning 12 out of 25 games against them and only losing five.
“In fact, his best win percentage is against Crystal Palace, with 12 victories in 15 games against the Eagles. He has also won more games against Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola (11) than he has against any other coach bar Eddie Howe and Dieter Hecking (also 11).
“In fairness though, his 27 matches against the Spaniard are far more than he has faced anyone else (Hecking is second with 21 games). His 500th game was a 5-0 win for Dortmund against Freiburg on 28 September, 2013.
Jordan Chamberlain of the Empire of the Kop says “'Rock bottom is yet to come' (via the BBC)
“Sorry Liverpool fans, but this isn't even rock bottom. Rock bottom is coming in the next few months.
“Those who've watched Jurgen Klopp's side this season knew what was going to happen at the Amex on Saturday against a young, hungry side full of players willing to run.
“Previously, when Liverpool lost to supposedly lesser opposition, it was a smash-and-grab job, where the Reds would dominate possession and the chances but get caught on the break or simply struggle to break down a deep defence.
“Brighton made a mockery of that. They were the better side in every single area of the field, owning more of the ball and being much better with it. Liverpool's midfielders couldn't get near Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister, both of whom would walk into Klopp's team right now.
“But, with Liverpool seemingly not spending any more this January, it's hard to see an improvement on these miserable performances until the summer, when a factory reset is needed.
“Klopp has been loyal to these players and they've won him everything, but it's time to build another team capable of competing on all fronts because the majority he has available to him are categorically past it.”
Mbappe was offered option to go to Liverpool but chose to reject the Reds (the Athletic)
“In mid-October , sources close to Mbappe claimed he had resolved to leave in the January transfer window.
“They also explained that in July, Antero Henrique who works as a consultant at PSG, had opened the door for him to leave but not to Real Madrid. Any exit would have to be to Liverpool, with PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Henrique himself asking for €400million ($431m; £352m). Mbappe rejected that option.”
Liverpool linked to Jesper Lindstrom
“Now, as Liverpool target new blood in their tired squad, they too could hand a blow to Arsenal in the market by signing Jesper Lindstrom, who Mikel Arteta is said to be a fan of. According to a report from Tipsbladet, as cited and translated by Sport Witness, the Danish star is on the radar for manager Jurgen Klopp, who wants to improve his squad this month.
“The report notes too that though the Eintracht Frankfurt star is contracted until 2026, he's apparently a big Liverpool fan, making any deal that little bit more likely. Arsenal may have dropped their interest now that they are pursuing Leandro Trossard of Brighton – while Liverpool have been linked with a host of midfielders and attackers themselves, including Trossard and Brighton team-mates Moises Caiceddo and Alexis Mac Allister.
“Lindstrom is valued at €28m by Transfermarkt.”
Liverpool linked to Teun Koopmeiners
“The Netherlands midfielder Teun Koopmeiners is flattered by Liverpool’s interest in him – well, who wouldn’t be? – but remains totally committed to Atalanta, where he currently plies his trade. The 24-year-old had a great World Cup, playing a pivotal role in his country’s run to that quarter-final thriller against Argentina, and has apparently been the subject of long-term interest in the Anfield scouting department.
“I saw the links and stories about Liverpool,” said Koopmeiners. “Nice to see that but I’m 100% focused on Atalanta, I’m so happy to play here.” While he’s making all the right noises, here on the Rumour Mill’s patented Come And Get Me Plea-o-meter, we’re registering that as a solid 7/10.
“Speculation suggests Atalanta, who remain in the hunt for a top four Serie A finish, have no intention of selling Koopmeiners in the current window, which means Jürgen Klopp may instead turn his attention to others on what some might say is a wildly optimistic shopping list. Brighton’s Moisés Caicedo, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Kouadio Koné, Fulham’s João Palhinha, Nice’s Khéphren Thuram and idle whimsy’s Uncle Tom Cobley are all believed to be on his radar.”
Jude Bellingham’s meeting about his future
“Jude Bellingham is set to hold a crunch transfer meeting with Borussia Dortmund after indicating to Real Madrid that he prefers a move to the Spanish giants rather than a Premier League switch.
“Liverpool have been credited with an interest in Bellingham on a number of occasions in the past, with Jurgen Klopp thought to be a big fan. Meanwhile, rivals Manchester City and Manchester United are also admirers of the Englishman, but it is Madrid who have emerged as frontrunners for his signature this summer.
“His starring role in last month's World Cup for England led to the Reds stepping up their interest in signing Bellingham, whose transfer valuation continues to increase. A switch in January has been ruled out, but Dortmund are willing to cash in on their star in the summer.
“A report in Diario AS has reiterated that the Spanish capital remains Bellingham's preference and his entourage have already indicated as such to Real Madrid. However, there has been no dialogue between any club and Dortmund regarding a future transfer.
“A meeting has now been set by Bellingham's father and representative Mark with Dortmund, in which there will be a discussion over the England international’s future at the end of the season. The club will consider the player’s preference when speaking to potential buyers.”
Sky Sports report that Liverpool are interested in Mathues Nunes
“Liverpool want to sign Wolves midfielder Matheus Nunes; the 24-year-old midfielder only joined the Molineux club from Sporting Lisbon last summer; Sky Sports News has learned Liverpool's move for Nunes is more likely to take place in the summer.
“Nunes is one of a number of midfielders Liverpool are monitoring and there was an interest in the player before he joined Wolves from Sporting Lisbon last summer, while Manchester City have also been tracking him.
“There have been reports that Liverpool will attempt to sign him for £44m but Sky Sports News has been told this fee is unrealistic, with Wolves valuing him at more than £50m. There has certainly been no approach from Liverpool to Wolves yet this month over signing Nunes.
“Jamie Carragher believes Liverpool have "no chance" of finishing in the top four without a new midfielder after the defence that has been "a shambles all season" was cut through repeatedly in their 3-1 defeat to Brentford on Monday.”
“In defence of Darwin Nunez” piece in the Guardian
“One of the worst things a player can do is move to the Premier League for a hefty fee. Players can’t dictate the amount their clubs spend on them, but the scrutiny and judgment a player receives before they have even kicked a ball for their new club is magnified when their price tag is large. Just ask Darwin Núñez.
“When you look at the numbers closely, Núñez has not actually performed that badly, particularly for a 23-year-old with only six months of experience in English football. Even his goal tally is not that bad. He has scored 10 goals in his first 23 appearances for Liverpool, which is more than Sadio Mané, Michael Owen and Luis Suárez managed (all nine); and it’s worth remembering that Roberto Firmino only scored one goal in his first 23 appearances for the club. He turned out just fine, even finishing as Liverpool’s top scorer in his first season at the club.
“His five goals in the league this season averages out to 0.5 goals per 90 minutes, which is the joint-fifth highest of players with more than 500 minutes on the pitch. He has also scored three goals in the Champions League, giving him one of the best goals-per-minute returns in the competition, averaging a goal every 93.3 minutes.
“Liverpool are not scoring enough chances and Núñez is partly responsible. He has missed 15 big chances, more than any other player in the league, but every prolific striker misses chances. Mohamed Salah, Ivan Toney and Haaland, all prolific goalscorers, have all missed 12 big chances each, with Gabriel Jesus (11) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (nine) not far behind.
“What that says about Núñez is he’s doing everything right in his buildup play: getting into the right positions, making the right runs and finding the right spaces. He just needs to sharpen up his finishing, which is something that can be worked on given his age. He is touching the ball in the opposition box every 9.6 minutes, which only Gabriel Jesus (who has a touch in the opposition box every 8.6 minutes) can better this season. Núñez is hard to mark and, despite his lack of goals, he is not avoiding the penalty area due to a lack of confidence. He remains the focal point of the attack and the goals will come. He also has two assists to his name in the league this season.”
Alan Shearer also defends Darwin Nunez in the Athletic
“Nobody has fluffed more big chances than Nunez in the Premier League this season (15 according to Opta). Place that next to an initial transfer fee of £64million ($77.6m), compare his 10 goals in all competitions to Erling Haaland’s 27 for Manchester City, factor in the Norwegian’s cheaper cost and Liverpool’s struggles in the Premier League, plus those cruel chants from opposition fans about him being “just a s*** Andy Carroll”, and it doesn’t look great, does it?
“Most of that is grossly unfair, though. It wasn’t too long ago that a goal every other game would be viewed as a fine return for most players and perhaps Haaland, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have changed the way we view that. But they are outliers, not the norm. Not everybody can do it.
“A deeper dig into those 15 ‘big’ misses paints a more nuanced picture — eight of them were on target and two hit the woodwork. Speak to senior people at Liverpool and they’ll tell you how much they love his movement, his pace and power and how Nunez always comes back for more.
“I like a lot of what I’ve seen with Nunez, who is still only 23, a player with unbelievable talent who may not be a natural finisher. It’s obvious — glaringly so — that the Uruguay international needs to find a bit more self-control in front of goal, but I don’t see a massive issue there.
“What do I mean by a natural finisher? It’s when you’re comfortable in the positions you’re in, when there’s no faffing. You’re not flustered or over-excited or wide-eyed or looking like you’re thinking, “What the hell am I doing here?” Nunez has everything else. He’s got lightning pace, which defenders hate, he gets into good spaces and he can finish well. When the ball comes to him at speed, he’s deadly. It’s when he has time to think about it; that’s when it doesn’t go right. He snatches at the ball and rushes it.
“To return to the start, if Nunez wasn’t regularly getting good opportunities I’d be fearful for him and Liverpool, but he is. His involvement in Liverpool’s shots and chance creation is not only the highest for his team but higher than any player in the Premier League so far. That tells you he’s involved and crucial and willing.
“The point is, he has plenty of time to become the world-class striker that all his attributes suggest he could be and he has plenty of knowledgeable people at Liverpool to help him get there, including the fans who continue to back him. For now, it’s about the training ground, knuckling down, practising relentlessly, finding comfort in that toil and honing those skills. He’ll get there.”
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