Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp may want to choose the “arm around the shoulder” strategy when addressing Darwin Nunez’s misconduct from Monday night with the forward. The newest addition to Anfield’s roster had a disastrous night against Crystal Palace as the former Benfica player missed several clear-cut opportunities first when the score was tied and later when Liverpool was down.
Nunez’s rash headbutt on Eagles defender Joachim Andersen in the second half resulted in a straight red card, which made matters worse.
Nunez was undoubtedly provoked by the Palace midfielder, but his response let down both himself and his teammates. The Uruguayan international fought tooth and nail to maintain his innocence, but replays revealed referee Paul Tierney was right to first give him a straight red card.
Nunez was ignored by Klopp as his attacker hobbled off the field, but the manager insisted after the game that he will speak with the 23-year-old to try and stop this irresponsible behavior.
“There was provocation but it was definitely the wrong reaction,” the Reds boss conceded. “He will learn from that. Unfortunately he has now three games to do that. It is not cool for us but it is how it is.
“Of course I will speak with him. I came in [after the game] and wanted to see the situation [on television]. In the game I could not see anything so I could know what happened.
“I saw Andersen on the floor and Darwin walking away. That was my picture. Then I saw it – yes it is a red card. Wrong reaction in the situation. Andersen wanted that, he got it but he (Nunez) made a mistake. Of course I will talk about it with Darwin but not yet.”
Nunez clearly displayed a moment of madness, but his management may want to keep in mind that the striker has a history of reacting poorly to criticism.
Soon after the forward’s transfer to Merseyside, Sky Sports questioned Pedro Sepulveda, a Portuguese football specialist, about the forward’s personality. The response was that there are concerns regarding Nunez’s ability to manage the mental component of the game.
During the 2020–21 season, Nunez struggled to score goals, thus he started blocking users on social media and suspending his accounts when they expressed any negative sentiments about his play.
Although it is clearly well within his rights to attempt and eliminate any unfavorable remarks or attention, it does not augur well for a player who will be in the spotlight even more in the Premier League.
Nunez struggled to handle criticism throughout his time at Benfica, and his response to Andersen’s provocation would undoubtedly encourage future rival center-backs to use the same strategy against Liverpool’s budding star.
Nunez has admitted to spending too much time on social media since joining Liverpool, according to Klopp, who has already talked about this. The Reds manager acknowledged he doesn’t understand why his striker interacts with it after a sluggish start to preseason.
“We always think that if you pay a lot of money then the players feel no pressure or whatever. They are all completely normal human beings and the first touch is not perfect then all of a sudden,” he said.
“This generation of players read social media, which is really not smart, but they do. All of a sudden you get in a rush and these kinds of things. He’s a different striker to what we have or what we had, but he’s a really good one.”