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Liverpool striker showing signs of 'exploding' after early struggles


Darwin Nunez had a difficult first season at Liverpool but Jurgen Klopp says he has taken "massive steps" recently and the numbers offer encouragement;

Darwin Nunez spoke candidly about the challenge of adapting to the Premier League in conversation with Sky Sports in February. "It's a very big change," he said. "Here, the league is stronger, more competitive. I didn't expect it to be so strong."

The £85m Uruguayan was enduring a difficult first season in England but it had been a similar story after joining his previous club Benfica. "The first year went very badly for me. In the second, I exploded," he said. "Here, I think the same thing is happening."

Nunez finished his first season with 15 goals in all competitions. No disaster in a complicated campaign for Liverpool. But his game-changing strike against West Ham on Sunday was his fourth in only 336 minutes this time around. Something has clicked.

His total includes the brilliant, match-winning double against Newcastle in August and while his inconsistency remains - his superbly-taken strike against West Ham came only minutes after missing a far easier chance - his progress is clear. "He has made massive steps in the last few weeks," said Jurgen Klopp on Sunday.

The most obvious change is the frequency with which Nunez is now dispatching his chances.

Last season, he scored only nine Premier League goals from 12.16 expected goals, giving him one of the worst negative differentials in the division. This time around, the underlying numbers look different.


Instead of underperforming on his expected goals, he is now overperforming, scoring three times from an xG of 2.64. It is a small sample size, of course, but the swing is encouraging.

The rushed attempt shortly before his goal against West Ham was a reminder that he remains erratic. Nunez has spurned six big chances in the Premier League this season, according to Opta.

But the kinks in his game are part of his charm to Liverpool fans - Nunez has long been an Anfield favourite - and the misses are easier to tolerate now that the goals are flowing too.

Factor in his two assists, in Liverpool's games against Aston Villa and Europa League opponents LASK, and Nunez is averaging a goal involvement every 56 minutes in all competitions this season.

Klopp has been trying to hone his finishing ever since his arrival. "He has told me I have to be calm when it comes to finishing," added Nunez back in February. "He wants me to take a second longer, because if I shoot with anger, or I rush it, it will always go badly."

Conversely, his recent successes owe more to following his instincts.