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Darwin Nunez has started well - but Liverpool need to adapt to get the best from him

Liverpool’s Uruguayan target man comes alive in box, so service from Salah and company must change
Liverpool's Darwin Nunez celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the FA Community Shield soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester City at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Liverpool's Darwin Nunez celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the FA Community Shield soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester City at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)© AP

Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino© Liverpool FC via Getty Images

John AldridgeSunday World

Liverpool might need to change the way they play this season if they are to get the best from new lead striker Darwin Nunez.

Nunez showed what he can do in a brilliant cameo performance in last weekend’s Community Shield win over Manchester City, but they need to have a slight change in mindset if they are to feed the new kid on the block with the ammunition he craves.

The club paid big money to get Nunez in from Benfica – and from what I have seen from him so far, he is a striker who will need a different kind of service to that provided by Liverpool’s creative players in recent years.

Manager Jurgen Klopp suggested after the friendly defeat against Salzburg on Wednesday that Nunez was isolated up front, and that could be a recurring problem unless the players around him adapt.

Roberto Firmino was brilliant at linking up the play and bringing others into the game when he was at his best, but Liverpool’s new central striker is a different type of player.

I see some of myself in Nunez, as he comes alive in the box and thrives on quality balls coming into him from wide positions.

In my time at Liverpool, I got incredible service from John Barnes, Ray Houghton and Peter Beardsley, with the goals I scored evidence of the quality that was around me in that team.

Nunez’s four goals in the pre-season game against RB Leipzig earlier this month suggested he is a striker who can be a huge asset to Klopp’s team if he gets balls into the box to attack, but this will be a change from what Liverpool have been used to in recent years.

So what needs to happen for Nunez to be a success?

DELIVERIES: Trent Alexander-Arnold is a top-notch crosser of the ball

DELIVERIES: Trent Alexander-Arnold is a top-notch crosser of the ball© Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Trent Alexander-Arnold is probably the best crosser of a ball in the game right now, so he will offer a fantastic supply line for Nunez.

He should also get chances in and around the box from set pieces as Liverpool have powerful players aerially, so Nunez should pick up the scraps that fall around him from corners.

Luis Diaz will have a big role in helping Nunez, as he showed in the second half of last season that he is a real threat running at defenders and feeding those around him with chances.

Yet my concern would be whether he will get the kind of support he wants from Mohamed Salah, who has a habit of shooting on sight rather than looking for team-mates.

For Liverpool to beat Manchester City in what is likely to be a two-team title race once again, they need Salah and Nunez to score around 25 goals each.

For that to happen, the duo have to work together – and Salah has to play a role as the team leader to ensure his strike partner settles into the team.

Such is the gap in class between Liverpool, Man City and the rest of the Premier League that I would expect those two teams to remain head and shoulders ahead of the rest in the season that gets underway on Friday night.

Once again, I suspect a team will need around 95 points to win the title – and only Liverpool and City are capable of hitting that target, so the rest will be fighting for the scraps.

Manchester City's Erling Haaland attempts a shot on goal during the FA Community Shield match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester. Picture date: Saturday July 30, 2022.

Manchester City's Erling Haaland attempts a shot on goal during the FA Community Shield match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester. Picture date: Saturday July 30, 2022.© PA

The chasing pack might well be led by Tottenham this year.

Outside of Klopp and City manager Pep Guardiola, Spurs probably have the third best manager in the English game pulling their strings as Antonio Conte has a career record that deserves respect.

He has won trophies on every step of his management career – and not only that, he has turned average teams into very good teams quickly.

Tottenham have made some interesting signings this summer, they got their business done early too, and they showed in the second half of last season that they are already a very good side.

The other ace they have in their pack is Harry Kane, who started last season in a very different place mentally.

Kane was pushing to get a move to Manchester City a year ago and wanted out of Tottenham, which clearly affected his performances.

He didn’t find his best form consistently last season and if Spurs get the real Kane back and firing alongside Son Heung-min, Dejan Kulusevski and new signings Richarlison an d Ivan Perisic, then they have a potent forward line.

Chelsea are the unknown quantity heading into this season as they failed to live up to their billing last season and, as yet, have not signed players to take them forward.

Kalidou Koulibaly and Raheem Sterling are good signings, but they have lost Antonio Rudiger and Romelu Lukaku and have just plugged the holes in their squad with new arrivals.

For Chelsea to bridge the gap between Liverpool and City, they need a top-class striker and probably another quality centre-back.

Those players will be hard to sign in the final few weeks of the transfer window, so there is a good chance Chelsea will lack the quality in depth to compete for the title.

The same is certainly true of Manchester United, who will do well to get a top-four finish this season.

New manager Erik ten Hag seems to have cracked the whip and got the players in for extra training sessions since his arrival, but they need a lot more than that.

United were a laughing stock for large parts of last season – and their 9-0 aggregate defeat in the two Premier League games against Liverpool showed how far behind the top sides they now are.

I don’t expect United to recover quickly enough to get into the top four and the best they can hope for is success in the Europa League or the domestic cups.

Winning the Premier League title has never been tougher as the two teams at the top of the table are the best in world football right now.

Liverpool lost just two games last season and drew only eight, but still, that wasn’t good enough to be crowned as Premier League champions.

The truth is that Jurgen Klopp’s men might have to do even better than that this season to get the better of Manchester City’s winning machine, with Erling Haaland now aboard.


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