Jürgen Klopp has held talks with Darwin Núñez over the striker’s difficult start at Liverpool and assured the Uruguay international his adaptation has been hindered by the team’s inconsistent form.
Núñez has started only twice since signing from Benfica this summer for an initial £64m rising to a potential club record £85m. He scored in his first two appearances for Liverpool, against Manchester City in the Community Shield and on the opening day of the Premier League season at Fulham, only to collect a three-match ban for violent conduct on his full debut when head-butting the Crystal Palace defender Joachim Andersen.
Núñez has been on the bench for the past three matches and saw Klopp introduce Diogo Jota before him in Saturday’s draw with Brighton, when Liverpool dropped points for the fifth time in seven league games. Before a crucial phase of the season, with Liverpool hosting Rangers in the Champions League on Tuesday and visiting the league leaders Arsenal on Sunday, Klopp has reassured the 23-year-old his time will come.
The Liverpool manager said: “He’s good. Of course he’s still adapting. New players come in and everybody talks about them and wants them to shine immediately; that happens from time to time and sometimes not. Only yesterday we had a long talk with him through [assistant manager] Pep Lijnders, because my Portuguese is still not better. We just told him we are really calm. It’s really important in our situation that he isn’t looking like he is worrying or whatever.
“He didn’t start at the weekend because he came back from the internationals and had a hamstring problem. When you get this information from the medical department it gives you an idea of some kind of minutes he is allowed to play, and you don’t start anyone who is only allowed to play 15 or 20 minutes. Of course the three-game suspension didn’t help him, but that’s pretty much all.
“The team is not flying, and that makes it not easier for a striker, especially not for a finisher. It’s not that we aren’t creating chances, but it’s not like everything is clicking and we put in one player and he finishes our situation off. That’s not our situation at the moment as much as I wish it would be.”
Klopp admitted after the Brighton game that confidence was low among a Liverpool squad that won both domestic cups, reached the Champions League final and was pipped to the Premier League title by a point only last season. The sudden downturn, he insists, is understandable.
He added: “People can ask how could it happen that these players are not full of confidence? Do you think Cristiano Ronaldo at this moment is top of his confidence levels? He was for ages the best player in the world and now it is not going his way. That happens to all of us. Last season Lionel Messi did not play exactly the same because these kind of things are really important to all of us and you have to work for it. You have to be really ready for the moment when it is back and that is what we are doing.
“It is not that we are without confidence but being 2-0 down [against Brighton] is not good for confidence and being 3-2 up is usually really good, but you could see with the first attack they had after 3-2 that it was still an open game. That is how it happens, especially collectively. In individual sports maybe you can fight yourself through it but in a team sport we all have to do it together and that makes it a bit more complicated.”
Klopp has Ibrahima Konaté available for the first time since pre-season and indicated there may be changes, in system and personnel, in an attempt to remedy the defensive flaws that have plagued his team recently.
Klopp said: “We cannot always start something completely new but if we can help the boys with a way to defend differently we will do that. We have to be more solid, we have to be more compact, and that is what we try to be.”