Is Darwin Nunez a flop at Liverpool? What the numbers say?

Darwin Nunez

The Uruguayan has been the subject of intensive scrutiny since his arrival in the summer. Darwin Nunez has yet to live up to the expectations. Is he, though, a flop?

Darwin Nunez, the Uruguayan striker, has joined Liverpool from Benfica. The Reds faced stiff competition from English Premier League opponents as well as other European clubs.

Darwin Nunez created a name for himself last season by regularly excelling at the highest level, particularly in the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool also required a successor for Sadio Mane and a good number nine to replace the Senegalese. But what do the underlying numbers say?

Darwin Nunez: Finding his feet

Darwin has five goals without a penalty in ten Premier League games, a more-than-acceptable average goal-per-minute ratio. When comparing his performance in the Premier League to his performance at Benfica, a completely different league in terms of style and level, and in his second season rather than his first, it is clear that Darwin is putting the ball between the posts a nearly identical percentage of the time (47.1% vs. 46.1%).

However, just 9.8% of those shots were converted into goals, whereas at Benfica he scored 25% of shots on target: one in every four of Darwin’s shots on target were goals. A figure that is as astonishing as it is tough for the Uruguayan to maintain in the Premier League.

The tremendous volume of shots and projected goals that the Uruguayan is taking on in his team is noticeable from this study of Darwin’s figures.

Excessive Responsibility

Following Sadio Mané’s departure, Liverpool are focusing their play in such a way that Darwin generates 56.2% of the xG produced in play by Liverpool. Whereas at Benfica he was only responsible for 36%.

To give you an indication of how lopsided Liverpool’s attack is. Haaland accounts for 38% of his team’s xG open play. Whereas Leo Messi accounts for 35% on average throughout his time at Barcelona. Darwin, who defines and shoots, is neither Haaland nor Messi. He is a different kind of player.

To this data, we need to add that Nunez’s shots had an average of 0.10 xG for each shot (with a 10% probability of scoring). But at Benfica, his opportunities were clearer: 0.15 xG per shot (with a 15% chance of becoming a goal).

In short, the Reds striker scores more than half of the team’s projected goals, although having 33% fewer chances. Logically, it is difficult for him to be as effective as he was in Portugal.

Verdict

Finding the causes of the same proportion of shots on target but a lower percentage of effectiveness is difficult, but we can uncover hints.

One of the most obvious is seeing Darwin’s goals in the Portuguese league on film and concluding that the opportunities were frequently empty netters or with goalkeepers and defenders of significantly lesser caliber than the Premier League.

When we compare the shots saved by goalkeepers from Darwin in 2021/22 to those saved in the Premier League 22/23 and the Champions League 22/23. We can observe that the proportion of saves improves. It’s not less significant because it’s so obvious: the quality of the chances is lower even as the volume grows. And the quality of the goalkeepers is far superior to that of the Primeira Liga.

Thus, Darwin just needs time to improve. At least we hope so.

(stats via Fbref)

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