Liverpool striker Darwin Núñez continues to split opinion after setting unwanted Premier League record

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31: Diogo Jota of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield on January 31, 2024 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Darwin Núñez has proved to be a polarizing figure since joining Liverpool in 2022. Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Since joining Liverpool in 2022, Darwin Núñez has continued to be an entertaining, yet polarizing presence in the English Premier League.

On one hand, the 24-year-old has all the physical attributes to be a world-class striker. He’s fast, strong and has shown signs he can score from almost anywhere when in the mood.

But the Uruguayan is also raw and many question whether he has the technical ability to be a consistent threat at the very top of the sport.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 29: (THE SUN OIT. THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Jurgen Klopp manager of Liverpool during a training session at AXA Training Centre on December 29, 2023 in Kirkby, England. (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

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This juxtaposition was on full display in Livepool’s league win against Chelsea on Wednesday, where Núñez missed a penalty, made a wonderful assist and then set an unwanted record.

While the Reds won 4-1, the scoreline could have been even more emphatic had Núñez not hit the woodwork on four occasions – a Premier League record for a single game.

Two of those missed chances were brilliant efforts from the striker, but the other two were opportunities he really should have converted.

The first was a missed penalty just before half-time which, despite hitting well, he directed against the post. The second was a stooping header in the second half which really should have been a goal.

Despite the missed chances, Núñez did pop up with a brilliant assist for Luis Díaz who made it 4-1 to the six-time European champions.

When asked about his striker’s performance after the game, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp tried to put a positive spin on it.

“Think you are in his boots, how that feels. Missing a penalty, you could see it at half-time, he was really upset with himself. Then missing the header from close range, but then setting up a goal. He stays in the game,” Klopp told reporters.

“It is just crazy that he creates that many [chances]. Imagine for a second he would take them all, the numbers would be absolutely insane to the extent where you wouldn’t understand it anymore.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31: Darwin Nunez of Liverpool shoots whilst under pressure from Axel Disasi of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield on January 31, 2024 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Núñez proved to be a handful against Chelsea but couldn’t get on the scoresheet. Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

According to the Premier League, Núñez now leads the way in big chances missed this season (20), three more than Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, who sits in second.

The Liverpool forward also taken the most shots, been caught offside the most times and hit the woodwork more than any other player in the league this season.

Agent of chaos

Despite his lack of cutting edge in front of goal, Liverpool fans have seemingly taken to the striker, serenading him with chants throughout the game against Chelsea.

“I thought he did everything but score a goal. He will be a nightmare for [defenders] to play against, whether he scores or not,” pundit and former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand told TNT Sports after the match.

“He runs you into bad places, he’s aggressive, he ricochets everything […] he’s a handful who will end up getting goals at this club.”

With seven league goals to his name so far this season, Núñez has undoubtedly been a pivotal part of his team’s rise to the top of the Premier League – it now sits five places ahead of Manchester City in second, having played one game more.

If Liverpool is going to see off the title challenge from the reigning league champion, it will need to rely on the likes of Núñez to keep finding the back of the net.

Whether he can do that is yet to be seen, but Liverpool fans will certainly enjoy their agent of chaos either way.

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