In the six-yard box against Fulham, Darwin Nunez made three shots.
Jurgen Klopp freely acknowledged after the game that Liverpool’s effort in their 2-2 draw was subpar. Shot production was a problem for the Reds throughout the game, but especially in the first hour.
In the first half, they only attempted three goals, with Luis Diaz’s effort that struck the woodwork being the best of their pitiful collection. Liverpool only had this few before halftime in eight out of their 63 games last year.
More importantly, these events featured matches in the Champions League versus Porto and Villarreal, as well as two games against both Manchester City and Arsenal. The Reds rarely struggle in this manner against opponents of their caliber, therefore Fulham should be commended for their performance.
With Diaz and Mohamed Salah on each side of him, Roberto Firmino started in the middle of Liverpool’s front three. After the game, Darwin Nunez, who had come on to replace the Brazilian in the 51st minute, earned a rating that tied him for second place overall (not that there was much competition).
The Uruguayan was on the field for eight shots by the Reds. With a goal and an assist, Nunez took four of them himself and assisted on two more while doing so.
Even if that is impressive, what stood out the most was how much more of a direct danger he provided right away. The average placements of Liverpool’s players throughout the game show that Nunez was very much in the spotlight.
The former Benfica player had three shots inside the six-yard box in an eight-minute span just after the hour mark, and he also set up an opportunity for Diaz that was taken from only a little bit further out. He had continued and enhanced what he had provided in his Community Shield cameo with this.
Nunez secured a 3-1 victory over Manchester City with a headed goal from within the six-yard box. In the friendly victory over RB Leipzig, he also scored from that area to complete his hat-trick by converting a Harvey Elliott ball. Opta categorized all four of the number 27’s close-range attempts in the two official games as clear-cut chances, and the Leipzig attempt would have been no different.
It is crucial to make this distinction. Since the start of the 2014–15 season, the average shooting from the six-yard box in the Liverpool league has been worth 0.38 predicted goals, as opposed to 0.13 for a non–penalty attempt from the remainder of the penalty area. They are roughly worth three times as much.
Not that the Reds have ever been without a close-range danger. In the 2021–2022 Premier League, they had 67 shots within the six-yard box—just one fewer than City and at least ten more than any other club.
In set play scenarios, though, center-backs were responsible for a sizable portion of the action, with headers accounting for about half of the total shots. Joel Matip, for example, finished third for Liverpool in the standings with nine shots from within the six-yard box.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple way to check for substitutes; otherwise, we might contrast Nunez’s performance at Fulham with what the Reds’ bench players accomplished the previous year. However, Diogo Jota had eight, Sadio Mané had four, and Firmino had three of Liverpool’s starting center-forwards’ 15 six-yard attempts in the league in 2021/22. With one occurring every 177 minutes when starting games in the middle of Klopp’s offensive trident, the former had them the most regularly.
Nunez scored, saw one of his shots stopped, and saw another one cleared off the line in a six-minute span against Fulham. The 23-year-old has four attempts from within the six-yard box in 70 minutes of action, not counting the City game.
Unavoidably, this rate will slow down. Only two players in England with at least as much playing time (Jota being one of them) outperformed Nunez’s Primeira Liga average of one such attempt per 199 minutes. But at Craven Cottage, the Uruguayan’s impact was obvious, and he has already fully shown what a fresh dimension he will bring to Liverpool’s attack.