Darwin Nunez: Captain Chaos both on and off the pitch

The Uruguayan has been a hot topic since his arrival at Anfield.
Atalanta v Liverpool FC: Quarter-Final Second Leg - UEFA Europa League 2023/24
Atalanta v Liverpool FC: Quarter-Final Second Leg - UEFA Europa League 2023/24 / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

On June 15, 2022, Liverpool Football Club secured the services of an explosive young forward from Benfica for a fee rising up to £85 million.

The player was joining the Reds on the heels of a prolific 32-goal campaign in Portugal. This dwarfed his xG from that season of 21.5. To round it out, he was still only 22-years old.

That was the story behind Darwin Nunez making the move to Liverpool. He arrived in the same summer that the dynamic Sadio Mane was ending his glittering Reds career with a move to German giants Bayern Munich.

While Darwin was not a like-for-like swap for the Senegalese star, it was expected he would shoulder a lot of the goal scoring burden that had been provided.

An up-and-down introduction

Nunez's first Premier League match with Liverpool came at Craven Cottage against Fulham. Nunez made an instant impact as he scored a goal of his own before setting up another. It was the type of whirlwind performance that Jurgen Klopp would have been looking for.

However, the following outing, Darwin made life difficult on himself. He received a red card for headbutting Crystal Palace defender Joachim Andersen. It was a moment of uncorralled passion that was hard to write away.

As a result, he was not able to build on his hot start to life in England, instead having to miss out due to the ensuing suspension.

While he would later score his first Champions League goal for the club, there were early signs that the pressure of being a big-money signing for Liverpool might be getting to him.

Moments of brilliance showed signs of his gifts

Nunez, while being guilty of missing several golden chances during his first season, was still able to produce moments of magic. Such as this truly instinctual finish against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

The control, the touch, the sheer audacity on display proved why Liverpool forked over such a sum for him the previous summer.

To this day, he has made scoring outstanding goals the norm. It's his issues converting the simple chances that have had media and fan alike murmuring for a year now.

New season, new number, new expectations

When it was announced that Nunez would be Liverpool's new No. 9 at the beginning of the 2023-24 season, it was met with mostly strong support.

He was coming off a 15-goal season and the idea was that he would take the next step now that he was fully immersed in the English game and at Anfield.

There were times early this season such as his late heroics against Newcastle United, where you thought that things had finally clicked and he would kick-on. However, those great days were followed by sporadic periods of wastefulness.

No matter your feelings about Darwin Nunez, you cannot ever question his work ethic or desire. He is undoubetedly one of the hardest workers in the side. That effort and drive has won him a lot of goodwill amongst the club dynamic.

We can tolerate some poor misses when we know he is going to keep working his tail off and be in those positions again. In addition, he has still scored some great goals this term as well.

As this season has gone from the highest of highs at Liverpool to a rather tame ending, Nunez has been one of the central figures of blame.

In the Premier League alone, he has hit the woodwork 9 times which is well ahead of any other player. Some could say that's bad luck, but that consistency might lend itself to a need to work on finishing.

Even when he is still being wasteful, he finds ways to impact games. His pace and power are true weapons that Liverpool have utilized and when he is on, he's a nightmare for any defender in the world to handle.

There are some that would prefer him to play on the wing to utilize these physical gifts and take the burden of being the main source of goals off his shoulders.

Wherever you play him, he is still clearly talented. Only Mohamed Salah has more goal contributions for Liverpool then Darwin's 31 this season.

Darwin Nunez is a unique case of love-hate

Simply bringing up Nunez in a Liverpool discussion will set off the fanbase and there will be two sides firmly entrenched. The Pro Darwin vs Sell Darwin groups. There is rarely any in-between.

I for one, am Pro Darwin with a caveat. Obviously he has left goals and as a result, points on the pitch this term. That cannot keep happening. Especially at a club that wants to win everything they can each year.

However, the way some talk about Nunez you would think he's had an atrocious campaign. 18 goals and 13 assists are fine numbers. The assists are the most he's ever had in a single season. Yes, a bit tidier finishes and those goals could be around 25 or higher, I fully understand that.

He has also been pretty bad to close out this season, there is no denying. One goal in almost two months is unacceptable.

Yet, having said that, rumored interest from clubs like Barcelona indicates other European sides can see the clear ability.

The talent is there. The effort and desire are there. At 24, age is still on his side. Allow the new coaching staff that comes with Arne Slot to teach him new perspectives on decision-making in the final 1/3.

He is teetering on the edges of erupting into a bonafide star at Liverpool or becoming a nice player that couldn't maximize his gifts.

The Reds should invest in another forward this summer sure, but that does not mean you have to give up on Nunez. If they were to sell him on and he explodes elsewhere, fans and club alike would be more frustrated then watching him hit the woodwork here.

One more season of Captain Chaos on the field will hopefully silence the chaos off of it.