Van Dijk praises Darwin Nuñez as Liverpool striker’s impact grows
Darwin Nuñez arrived at Liverpool with some rough edges, and an early red card ban didn’t help the narrative surrounding Liverpool’s record signing. Among the noise, however, were the numbers. Expected goals, clear chances, shot generation.
By any reasonable measure, Darwin was elite at doing things around the box you buy a striker for. It wasn’t a small-scale mirage either, but rather a continuation of what the young Uruguayan had always done at Benfica. From the start, these numbers explained why Liverpool signed the 23-year-old.
Now the rest of his game seems to have caught up as he continues to adapt to a new, more demanding team in a new, more demanding league, and anyone now betting against him to become one of the game’s best in would get very long. odds.
“He has all the qualities of a modern-day striker,” said centre-half Virgil van Dijk, who faces Darwin every day in training. “That’s why we bought him. He learns how we want to play, he learns what we expect of him. He plays a bit on the left but also has a free role to come in the middle.
“It takes time. It’s a new team, a new environment, a new country, a new language so it’s completely normal that it takes a little longer, but there’s no doubt that the qualities are there. We never doubted his quality and I think he did very well.
Darwin now has nine goals and a pair of assists in 941 minutes, one goal involvement for every 85 minutes he is on the pitch. He created 1.36 xG and xA for 90 in the league, just a hair behind Erling Haaland of Manchester City with 1.37 for 90 and well ahead of Harry Kane of Tottenham (0.95) and Gabriel Jesus of Arsenal (0 ,92).
Now, too, the rest of his game seems to be catching up. It’s not just the numbers that look good for Darwin anymore, it’s his whole game. If before he looked like a player any respectable stats guru should have supported, now the Uruguayan is also passing the eye test.