May 25, 2024

One of the most important problems for the next Liverpool manager is how to deal with Darwin Núñez. Almost two seasons into his Liverpool career, he remains somewhat of an enigma.

It is true that just a few forwards can match his total goal contribution across all competitions. In the Premier League alone, he needs two more assists to become only the second player to achieve double figures in both goals and assists, though a slew of players are in contention to join Ollie Watkins in this regard in the remaining weeks of the season.

Núñez’s season has been marked by lost opportunities, both in front of goal and in other areas. When he scored a brace against Newcastle to turn the game around, it appeared that he had fully arrived at Liverpool, but he never took advantage of that — and his fluffed lines will be recalled more than most when analyzing where the title slipped away.

Will the new manager, Arne Slot, continue to support Núñez’s leadership? Does Michael Edwards, for that matter, have quit his previous position as sporting director before the Uruguayan transfer was approved? Or will Liverpool look to the market to find someone with a more clinical approach?

Alexander Isak may theoretically be one of the candidates. With 17 league goals, the Newcastle striker is tied with Mohamed Salah, and only Cole Palmer has a higher minutes-per-goal rate among the division’s top 20 scorers.

Isak’s 35% goal conversion rate tops Palmer, Erling Haaland, Son Heung-min, and Diogo Jota. Núñez’s percentage now stands at 13.

Former Liverpool and Newcastle player José Enrique has already issued a warning. Though he recently praised Isak’s abilities, he highlighted concerns about his fitness record, even suggesting the Magpies should consider selling.

 

The arrival of Alexander Isak to the Barça seems a utopia

 

“The problem with Alexander Isak — and we’ve said this about him even when he was at Real Sociedad — is that he’s always injured,” Enrique stated in an interview with Grosvenor Sport. “The way Newcastle want to play is with high intensity and pressing from the front, and you can’t expect to do that if you have three or four injuries per year.

“If someone comes along and offers them the £70 million ($87 million/€82 million) that they paid to sign him in the first place, they should think about it. It’s not simply a question of quality—I believe Isak is talented enough to play for Liverpool or Manchester United, for example—but also of availability.

“He’s too injury prone, to the extent that if someone came with a lot of money this summer which gave Newcastle the opportunity to sign someone slightly worse but consistently fit, they’d have to consider that option.”

Liverpool.com says: First and foremost, there’s no suggestion that Liverpool is in any way minded to give up on Núñez and move for Isak. While the Uruguayan was not an Edwards signing, he will love the positions he gets in and the high-quality chances he earns for himself, even though the finishing has so far been lacking.

At the very least, Núñez probably deserves a crack under a new manager. The potential is infuriatingly obvious.

But if Liverpool was in the market for a replacement, then Enrique makes a good point about Isak. A proven clinical finisher over a number of seasons, the Reds can ill-afford another key player whose availability cannot be relied upon, with Jota already in that mold up front.

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