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The same model, Darwin Nuñez prioritizes continuity with Liverpool

By Charles Cornwall

The same model, Darwin Nuñez prioritizes continuity with Liverpool

Liverpool need more goals from Darwin Núñez, but at least they are close to matching Erling Haaland.

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Darwin Núñez delivered a frustrating cameo in Liverpool’s recent 3-1 defeat at Arsenal. The Reds’ trustiest shot machine only had one goal attempt after coming off the bench in the 58th minute, making this only the third time he’s not reached the two-shot mark in a Premier League game when playing over half an hour.

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To make matters worse, Núñez’s decision to shoot was a poor one when time was running out and his side were desperately searching for an equalizer. His effort from the right of the box was valued at a paltry 0.04 expected goals by Understat, just 0.02 by FBRef. It was at best a one-in-25 chance for an average finisher, and unfortunately the Uruguayan has yet to prove he’s even at that level for Liverpool.

Had he been alone in attack it would have been understandable to shoot, but Luis Díaz, Harvey Elliott and Diogo Jota were all in the center of the penalty box, hoping for a cutback. They all made their frustration clear to varying degrees when the ball was blasted into the Emirates stand, and rightly so. Even if we were to leave all these factors aside when analyzing Núñez’s choice in that moment, one thing is abundantly clear: the chance did not have the style of build up from which he is traditionally successful.

TifoFootball’s Jon Mackenzie has recently been conducting research into how many touches Premier League forwards take before having shots. With help from Dominic Haynes of University Campus of Football Business, he found that 60 per cent of open play Premier League goals over the last three seasons were scored with one touch hitting the ball first time with a further 20 per cent only requiring a second touch and no more. Liverpool has provided plenty of examples this season of goals which do not fit this criterion and there’s some impressive and important strikes among the collection. Dominik Szoboszlai took two touches before a third unleashed his thunderbolt against Leicester City, while Conor Bradley used the same number to notch his first senior goal for the Reds, against Chelsea.

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Complicated scenario

There were six touches by Jota as he opened the scoring in the same game, just as there were when Mohamed Salah equalized against Arsenal and Elliott scored the vital winner at Crystal Palace. However, the latter two were low xG value chances, Jota only making his opportunity decent by barging through the Chelsea back line with the ball. Goals may not be guaranteed to follow, as he has shown, but at least Núñez is generally going in the right direction to try to ensure they do. It's up to his teammates to aid the Uruguayan in taking shots at the first time of asking.

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