Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp clearly does not have enough faith in Darwin Nunez given his late appearance against Brighton, one pundit believes.
The Reds returned from the international break looking to progress from their Champions League win over Ajax. While they struggled to get over the line in their 2-1 victory, a third win in eight games showed progress.
But, the same problems crept up on Liverpool in Saturday’s Premier League clash with Brighton at Anfield.
They went 1-0 down, therefore continuing a recent trend of conceding first. And it got worse as Leandro Trossard struck his brace to make it 2-0.
Roberto Firmino then scored a double of his own and Liverpool actually hit the front through an Adam Webster own goal. However, Trossard was not finished and netted his hat-trick to salvage Brighton a well-deserved point.
Trossard’s third goal came after 83 minutes, but Liverpool’s big striker signing Nunez stayed on the bench until the 89th minute, when he replaced Thiago Alcantara.
According to Noel Whelan, that call is the writing on the wall from Klopp.
“It says a lot that Nunez did not come on until the final minute,” the pundit told Football Insider. “If Klopp trusted him and thought he could score the winner, he would have brought him on earlier.
“He obviously thought he had better options, and that’s not a surprise given Jota’s scoring record, really.
“Nunez is still finding his way in English football and that red card and suspension really set him back. It will be in the back of the manager’s mind and it will take some time for him to get the trust of Klopp. He was obviously raging over that.
“Nunez is the record signing and will need time to adapt. But it could be some time before he is a regular starter.”
Liverpool warned Arsenal drubbing incoming
And Liverpool’s fixture list does not get any easier from here on in before the World Cup.
They have to play Manchester City and Tottenham ahead of the mid-season break. Before those games, though, they travel to table-topping Arsenal next week.
And Gabby Agbonlahor admitted on talkSPORT that he fears for the Reds going to Mikel Arteta’s side. Like Whelan, the former Aston Villa man criticised Klopp’s team selection.
“He’s making mistakes as a manager,” Agbonlahor said. “Today, start [Luis] Diaz, start Nunez. He started [Fabio] Carvalho, took him off at half time.
“You can’t make these mistakes in the Premier League. Brighton are a top side, they’ve shown that.
“Liverpool now are 11 points behind Arsenal, 11 points! His defenders don’t want to defend, [Virgil] Van Dijk didn’t want to defend today, he’s stuck in fist gear.
“Teams are targeting that right-hand side with Trent [Alexander-Arnold] and it’s hard to watch Liverpool defend. [Joel] Matip as well today was poor, and they’ve got problems Liverpool.”
Reds need to reset
Liverpool hoped that international break would have revived them ahead of a busy and crucial run before the World Cup.
Klopp insisted after the Ajax game that what he saw was much more like the Liverpool he has built in the past few seasons.
However, those deep-rooted issues of poor defending and conceding first remain.
The Reds have shown they can score goals, but they will not get anywhere if their defence does not improve.
Liverpool now turn their focus back to the Champions League, with Rangers the visitors to Anfield on Tuesday.
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