I am sick to the back teeth of bad faith Mancunians. I could, of course, be talking about Anthony Taylor, who gave us two penalties yesterday and yet somehow had a game that seemed to massively favour Saudi Arabia FC, but I am, in fact, referring to Gary Neville. The former Manchester United defender doesn’t like Liverpool. That shouldn’t really shock anyone, given the manner in which he used to celebrate against us whilst playing for the Red Devils. When he began his punditry career, however, he did at least pretend to be impartial when it came to all things LFC. Lately, though, the fella who has had a life-long battle with growing facial hair has begun to abandon any sense of impartiality in favour of trying to create a narrative around Liverpool that simply isn’t true. Last night it reached the point that other people from outside the fanbase seemed to begin to cotton on to it, such was the ludicrous nature of his commentary. It is all done in incredibly bad faith and we should not give him the time of day, yet Sky Sports continues to offer him a platform to spout his unadulterated nonsense.
So if a player goes down on contact it’s too easy, and if he tries to stay on his feet after contact that makes it a dive? Hate us more, Neville, I dare you
— Lola Keeley (@LolaKeeley_) January 1, 2024
He should not be allowed to commentate on Liverpool or Manchester United matches, such is the extent to which his bias shows through in both. For what it’s worth, I also wouldn’t have Jamie Carragher commentating on Liverpool matches, with the former Red constantly over-doing it to show that he’s definitely not biased in our favour. Yet it is Neville that I have the biggest problem with because of the serious and po-faced nature of his comments, in which he tries to make out that he is some sort of beacon for justice and righteousness. It is in the little things as much as the big ones. Last night we had a close offside call that looked marginally on, yet Neville insisted Luis Diaz ‘looked off’. Saudi Arabia FC had one in which their player looked marginally off, but Neville was quick to suggest that he was onside and it would ‘be close’. It is low-level stuff, but it is not done in good faith and any pretence of impartiality is abandoned. Then there is the manner in which he has forced the narrative around two blatant penalties that has continued today and I’m just sick of hearing his nonsense.
There are Similarities with Suarez
It is entirely possible that a lot of people reading this aren’t old enough to really remember Luis Suarez’s time at Anfield. I, sadly, am not young enough for it to have been before my time, so I remember well the Uruguayan regularly missing excellent chances in his first 18 months at the club. I also have a vague memory of him being caught offside quite a lot in those first few months in England, both of which are stats that are eerily familiar to those of us watching Darwin Núñez playing at the moment. I’m sure those that remember Suarez’s time as well as me will be quick to point out how exciting the player looked and how he was a constant thorn in the side of opposition defences, all whilst seeming to ignore the fact that the exact same thing is true of his compatriot. There are some that revere Suarez as one of the best forwards that we’ve ever had, who will also say that Núñez is ‘crap’ or that he’s a waste of money. It is, of course, entirely possible that Darwin never finds his shooting boots in the same way that Suarez did, but I’m not ready to give up on him just yet.
Some similarities in the basic numbers of Luis Suarez and Darwin Nunez at the start of their Liverpool careers
Luis Suarez first 18 months at Liverpool: 15 goals, 183 shots, 3644 minutes
Darwin Nunez to date at Liverpool: 14 goals, 134 shots, 2749 minutes
— Omar Chaudhuri (@OmarChaudhuri) January 1, 2024
Suarez was a problematic character. His racist language towards Patrice Evra is unforgivable and the fact that he bit not one but two players is suggestive of someone without sufficient self-control. When Núñez head-butted Joachim Andersen during his Anfield debut, there was a bit of me that feared that we might have bought another South American fire cracker. Although there have been other moments when the forward has demonstrated his lack of self-control, he hasn’t yet mirrored the madness of Luis Suarez on that front. Yes, Suarez was playing with worse players overall than Darwin is, but he also had the team set up to get the very best out of him. The same can’t be said of Núñez, with Jürgen Klopp knowing that he needs to have a system that can cope without certain players rather than one that is built around one player and then doesn’t work if the player doesn’t perform. There is an argument that we’d have won the league in 2013-2014 if we hadn’t been so reliant on Suarez towards the end of the campaign. We’re not reliant on Darwin, but if he starts to score regularly he could be invaluable to us.
He’s Offering a Lot Even Without the Goals
I want Darwin Núñez to start scoring on a regular basis. There is nothing I want more than for him to be a 20+ goal a season striker. Yet those that have decided to write him off based on his output are ignoring the fact that he’s bringing a lot of good to the team. Yes, output is one of the most important things that you can get from a forward and he absolutely needs to start to take the myriad of chances that he’s being presented with. There is, though, an argument that Liverpool look much better from an attacking point of view with him in the side. At the moment, he isn’t taking his chances as regularly as he should, but opposition defences can’t depend on that happening forever. As a result, he ends up occupying defenders and that allows space for our other attackers. We look much more fluent and consistent going forward when he starts matches than we do when he is on the bench, albeit we all wish that he had the finishing instinct that Diogo Jota has in abundance. He might not be scoring at the rate we want, but Mo Salah seems to love playing with him.
Salah and Nunez have linked up for 35 big chances in their 18 months together – the same total as Firmino and Salah in their last five seasons together. pic.twitter.com/5JRUN4L5Ev
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) January 2, 2024
It is easy to dismiss his ability on the back of him not putting the ball into the back of the net on a consistent basis, but being a Liverpool player is about so much more than doing your own thing. Núñez frustrates, of that there is no question. The big problem I have is with people looking at what he does as binary. Too many people are quick to say he’s ‘crap’, or worse, because of his lack of goalscoring. Yet he’s learnt to press really well, occupies defenders brilliantly and is always a thorn in the side of opposition defences. The partnership that he’s struck up with Salah is exceptional, as Andrew Beasley has said in his tweet on their combination work. They have made 35 big chances, which one of the key things that a manager will ask of his players. If we can get him to the point that he can score on a regular basis then he’ll be scary. It is also worth noting that sometimes opposition goalkeepers deserve great credit and Martin Dúbravka made some great saves from the Uruguayan last night. Gary Neville might want to paint a different picture, but Darwin is doing just fine.