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Noticably Liverpool have found their Bruno Fernandes in an unlikely place



Liverpool have wasted many chances this season but have the third best chance in the Premier League

Darwin Nunes has faced almost constant criticism since joining Liverpool. Strict scrutiny is the price you pay for playing for one of the biggest football clubs in the world and he did himself no favors when he was sent off in his first game in England. Much of the derision for Nunes’ performance stemmed from his lack of big opportunities in big moments.

Optimists will point out that at least he is in the right place, and without his speed and movement, this opportunity would not have arisen. However, a balanced analysis like this does not attract much engagement on social media.

The former Benfica man was also regularly mocked for his poor decisions in the final third, with teammates missing big chances by failing to complete passes. But while Nunes has arguably squandered a number of valuable chances for Liverpool, he hasn’t had much of a problem with his creativity in the game. Relatively speaking, he is one of the most productive players in 2022/23. in the Premier League campaign. Nunes’ tally of two assists (plus one against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup) suggests otherwise. However, these are poor ways to measure a player’s creativity because they rely on teammates to alter shots. The 23-year-old’s goalscoring record is all the proof you need.

This indicator refers to the chances of scoring a goal from the player you expect to score. Trent Alexander-Arnold leads Liverpool with 13 points in all competitions this season, nine ahead of Mohamed Salah. Nunes followed with eight assists, but only two of them were on goals. Andy Robertson created less clear-cut chances, but he has four goals for his efforts.

A more detailed way to look at the data is to consider expected helping options. Here, the player who created the chance is given an estimated goal value to put in their book. In the Premier League, Nunes has accumulated 3.3 xA this season (according to FBRef data), not far behind Alexander-Arnold (3.8), Salah (3.7) and Robertson (3.4). But all three have played more football. Nunes averaged 0.33 expected assists per game. 90 minutes unmatched by any Liverpool player who has played the fewest minutes. Only Diogo Jota is ahead of him in the team and unfortunately he has only played 196 minutes so far this season, which is 0.03 minutes ahead of him.

If we look back over the last five years, Jurgen Klopp’s team have played at least 900 minutes better than Nunes’ creativity this season. Alexander-Arnold averaged a staggering 0.41 points per game last season, but Liverpool players in 2020/2021. averaged 0.33 ppg in 2011, a season in which the Reds won their 19th league title.

No-one had done it in the previous season either – James Milner surprisingly topped the chart with 0.27 – and Philippe Coutinho was halfway through 2017/18. for the season before going to Barcelona. The average score is 0.38. Few players can top what Nunes has achieved so far, but the fact that the Brazilian has done it in such a small squad suggests that Liverpool’s number 27 will struggle to stay fit until the end of the season.

However, his record for Benfica is almost identical with an average of 0.32 expected assists per game. 90 minutes in his two La Liga seasons with Benfica. England’s standards are higher, but so is the quality of Nunes’ new attacking teammates and the quality of coaching he will receive from Klopp. After all, his current level may continue. We’ll see if the Reds’ summer signing eventually secures his place in the Premier League’s creative elite. Currently, only Bruno Fernandes (0.35 xA per 90 minutes) and Kevin De Bruyne (0.51) lead Nunes in the overall rating. If you have to criticize his finishing, but his ability to create chances is the best.