When Liverpool identifies a transfer target, it generally wastes little time in signing them.
After months of speculation linking Darwin Nunez with the likes of Manchester United and Newcastle United, the Anfield outfit completed a 85 million-pound deal for the Uruguayan striker within the space of just a few days.
In many other ways, though, Nunez isn’t the archetypal Liverpool signing. The Merseyside club has earned itself a reputation for being particularly shrewd in the transfer market, but Nunez’s move – for a club record figure – is more of an obvious signing than has been usual in recent times.
Nunez is a marquee addition that marks Liverpool out as a truly elite level club shopping from the top shelf of European football.
Nunez will certainly broaden Jurgen Klopp’s attacking options. In fact, the Uruguayan could even change the identity of Liverpool as a team. His arrival at Anfield this summer could be a landmark moment in Klopp’s tenure at the club and says a lot about the direction he wants to take the Reds over the coming years.
To date, Klopp has favoured a space-filling centre forward over a goal-scoring one as Liverpool boss. Nunez won’t drop as deep as Roberto Firmino or even Diogo Jota, but he will drift out to the left wing much like Sadio Mane did in the second half of last season when he was deployed through the middle.
This natural tendency to drift out to the left will open up space for Mohamed Salah on the right. However, Nunez’s urge to get in behind will leave more space for midfielders to push forward to the edge of the opposition box.
One possibility is that Trent Alexander-Arnold will fill this space. Another is that Thiago Alcantara will be used in a more attacking role.
Of course, this presumes Klopp will continue to line up his Liverpool team in the 4-3-3 shape that has worked so well for them over the years. Nunez most commonly played as the frontman in a 4-2-3-1 system for Benfica last season and it’s possible Klopp could make use of this formation now that the Uruguayan has been added to his squad.
It wasn’t uncommon for Nunez to play on the left side of a 4-3-3 for Benfica and so that familiarity should serve him well at Liverpool where he might have to adapt his game.
Luis Diaz and Salah like to drive centrally and so the addition of Nunez is unlikely to stem the fluidity of the team in the final third of the pitch.
Perhaps most notably, Nunez will give Liverpool another aerial threat, adding to Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk. The two are also permitted to get forward for set pieces. Nunez, however, will be a target for the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to find with crosses from open play.
Nunez is the embodiment of the modern striker. At 6ft 2”, he is a physically imposing figure and has pace to burn, but the Uruguayan is also fast with the ball at his feet.
These physical attributes make him very dangerous in moments of quick transition, which is likely why Liverpool targeted him given they like to play into space in this way.
The way Nunez likes to carry the ball forward is also likely to make him a good fit for his new team. He averages 5.42 progressive carries per 90 minutes, placing him in the 91st percentile for players in his position over the last 12 months. He is in the 99th percentile for progressive carries into the opposition penalty area.
Another reason Klopp surely likes Nunez is his willingness to get back and help out on the defensive side of the game. The 22-year-old averages 2.49 pressures in the defensive third per 90 minutes and is also in the 94th percentile for tackles in the defensive third per 90 minutes. Nunez is not slow to get stuck in.
With Mane on his way to Bayern Munich and Salah into the final 12 months of his contract at Liverpool, Klopp is building his next great team.
The challenge will be to keep Liverpool competitive on all fronts while they go through this process, but this maybe explains why they have spent so much money on a player who should make an immediate impact.
Nunez might not be an archetypal Liverpool signing, but that could be the thing that keeps Klopp’s team fresh and moving forward. The best teams find ways to stay at the top and that sometimes requires a change.
Nunez is both closely enough aligned to the profile of his new team and also far enough removed from it to give Klopp exactly what he wants.