Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp remains confident Darwin Nunez will provide “long-term” value for the Reds despite being relegated to the bench in recent weeks.
A failure to reinforce Klopp’s midfield last summer has been criticised as Liverpool instead plunged the vast majority of their transfer budget into a £66 million ($82 million) move for Nunez, that could rise to £88 million with add-ons.
The Uruguayan has scored 15 goals since arriving from Benfica but has fallen down the pecking order since the arrival of Cody Gakpo in January and the return to fitness of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz.
Nunez came off the bench to net as Liverpool smashed Leeds 6-1 on Monday.
But it has often been a far more difficult season for Klopp’s men as they sit eighth in the Premier League, nine points adrift of the top four.
“It’s not helpful to go through a debut season when it’s difficult for the whole team. How can a striker shine when the whole team is struggling?” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Nottingham Forest’s visit to Anfield on Saturday.
“He was injured in some moments, suspended in other moments. That’s not a problem at all. This is a long-term project.
“I understand that he wants to play desperately from the beginning but we have to find a way that really works for us again and then fit in the players we can use with the specific strengths.
“I am completely fine with the situation. I understand that Darwin isn’t always fine. He doesn’t smile in my face when he realises he won’t start and says: ‘Thank you boss’.
“But when you have five or six players available up front you have to make decisions and that’s good.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s form has been another reason for Liverpool’s slide down the table this season, but the right-back has shone recently from a new role as he has pushed into midfield in possession.
Alexander-Arnold has provided three assists in the past two games, but Klopp said it was still a work in progress.
“This slightly advanced role suits him in the moment really well. It’s a challenge for everyone else to cover the spaces when we lose the ball theoretically but with him there we didn’t lose that many balls, which was helpful as well,” added Klopp.
“It is now not the solution for all the football problems we had this year but he has potential to play that position.
“But it’s not written in stone, why should we? We will see where it leads to.”
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