No matter how hard you try, you simply can’t ignore Darwin Núñez. Even before he’d even stepped foot on the pitch on Sunday, all eyes were on him.
The Uruguayan drew attention from the moment he stepped off the team bus. His new hairstyle gained plenty of reaction on social media as he ditched his usual ponytail for braided pigtails.
Whether there was any reason for the dramatic new look is unknown. If it was an attempt to change his recent fortunes in front of goal for Liverpool though, it didn’t work.
Núñez once again failed to get on the scoresheet despite Liverpool scoring four against Fulham. Unfortunately for him, much like his appearance on Sunday, his recent form is hard to ignore.
The 24-year-old is now without a goal since his spectacular strike against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup. It’s not like he hasn’t had the opportunities to add to his tally either.
Once again though, Núñez passed up a couple of glorious chances to add to his tally against Fulham. Put through on goal by Mohamed Salah, he smashed the ball against the crossbar when a more delicate touch was needed, and when found by the same player moments later in a good position, he got his feet in a tangle and skewed the ball wide.
Those two chances rather sum Núñez up this season. While there has been undoubted improvement in his all-round game, particularly his pressing, there is still a lack of composure in front of goal.
The former Benfica striker remains thrilling and frustrating to watch in equal measures. He has seemingly become Jürgen Klopp’s first-choice option as the number nine, but without goals, it is becoming harder, it does become harder to justify his selection at the moment.
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Fulham did a great job at stifling Mohamed Salah and Luis Díaz, and in those instances, the number nine needs to deliver. After all, Liverpool can’t always expect its midfielders to come up with four top-class goals like they did on Sunday.
As a result, Klopp faces a decision this week as he prepares his side for Sheffield United and Crystal Palace. Does he stick with Núñez, or does he side with a player who has recently shown he can supply the goals the Uruguayan is missing?
Cody Gakpo is now surely banging the door down after his double in the Europa League on Thursday. True, LASK’s defense didn’t look anywhere near up for the challenge, and the Dutchman’s first goal couldn’t have been any easier — even Núñez surely couldn’t have passed up the chance presented by Salah there.
But his second goal, expertly curled in at the far post, served as a reminder to Klopp of his ability in front of goal. It’s one that’s becoming harder and harder to ignore.
Gakpo has served as something of a utility man for Liverpool this season, and his development as a number nine from last season has perhaps stalled as a result of him regularly being asked to move into midfield. This week then could be his opportunity to pick up where he left off, and reclaim his spot from Núñez.