Jurgen Klopp says unlocking confidence is all part of being a top class striker and he believes Darwin Nunez is well on his way to becoming just that.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s clash with newly promoted Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, the manager says has been no benchmark set for the potential of the Uruguayan due to the unique skillset that he possesse as the Official site reported.
“Darwin is No.9. He can play the wing as well and it all depends on how we want to work an opponent, where the space is, where you can unleash his full potential, things like this.
"The thing is, last year, especially when things did not go particularly well, it was super-important that everything was set up perfectly and we needed a No.9 who defended the centre perfectly in a way Darwin was not able to do then. Now he can.
“Now we are set up slightly different with a different confidence level, we used the full pre-season to get used to that. In that moment, when we are defensively stable, then he has to play from the centre. It is to make sure we are compact but we don’t have to judge all the different options of the opponent where they could go through.
"We got used to Bobby [Firmino] and then Cody [Gakpo] stepped in really well and then all of a sudden Darwin’s first thing should be to stretch the formation and be there. The team needed stability there [last season].”
A first season in a brand new league is never easy for any player, let alone someone with a language barrier to overcome and playing in a team who was suffering from a crisis in confidence and had clearly come to the end of a very successful cycle.
While there is a school of thought that Darwin was a wrong fit from the get-go, he actually had scored in his first two appearances for the club against Man City in the Community Shield and Fulham in the opening game of the league season.
But it was his Anfield debut from hell against Crystal Palace where he was given a straight red for violent conduct against Joachim Andersen which derailed the early part of his season.
Gone was the opportunity to keep on building momentum with a three game ban the punishment for his undisciplined action and he did not score again for the Reds for a couple of months.
Regularly ridiculed by opposition fans and questioned by some of his own due to the money that was outlaid for him, Nunez has certainly come a long way from those difficult early days and would surely agree to the notion that from adversity comes a sense of strength.
When asked what has changed for the 24 year-old, Klopp said that putting the ball in the back of the net gives you a whole new outlook as the striker is averaging a goal every two games so far this season.
“It’s the riddle of the life of a striker. You have a few goals already and it makes it easier. He always will miss chances but if you miss the first five before you score it doesn’t feel great. Now he has had a good start to the season and he has scored fantastic goals, different goals, all kinds of goals. He’s in a different moment.”
Just like when he arrived at the club, Klopp does not want to put a ceiling on where Nunez can take his game.
“The speed, the finishing skills, the desire he has… when he’s fit he is really fit so he can go and go again. You just don’t know where he will end up. He came in for really big money. It shows again that players need time. We forget that.
“People always say, ‘How long will it take?’ but Darwin is here, Darwin is fully here and it’s different. It’s good for him.”