In Focus: Rough diamond Darwin struggling to deliver on his potential
Liverpool are enduring a difficult 2022-23 season and big-money summer signing Darwin Nunez has yet to find his shooting boots.
The Reds signed the Uruguayan striker from Portuguese giants Benfica for £64million last June and he has contributed nine goals and three assists across all competitions since.
That is not a bad return but it is certainly not what was expected following such a sizeable outlay — although it is true that Jurgen Klopp's once-seamless machine is malfunctioning across the board.
Ahead of the Merseysiders' FA Cup third-round clash with Wolves, we take a look at the role Nunez has played at Anfield so far this season and how he can deliver on his huge potential.
A slow start
Liverpool came close to winning an unprecedented quadruple last term — lifting the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup while narrowly missing out on the Premier League and Champions League.
Klopp's men have struggled so far this season, though, taking just 28 points from 17 games so far in 2022-23.
The Reds find themselves outside of the top four, seven points behind Manchester United in the battle to secure a place in next season's Champions League.
If they are to close the gap, they will need their South American striker to start scoring on a more regular basis.
Nunez made his professional breakthrough at Montevideo giants Penarol before joining Spanish outfit Almeria in 2019.
He scored 16 goals in 30 appearances in the second tier for the Andalucian side before Benfica took a gamble on the athletic forward.
The Lisbon club paid a club-record fee of around £30m to secure the services of Nunez in September 2020 and were rewarded with 48 goals in 85 games for the Eagles.
Top scorer in the Portuguese top flight in 2021-22 with 26 strikes in 28 outings, it was the striker's performances in the Champions League that announced his arrival on the European stage.
Netting in both legs of the quarter-final clash with Liverpool, along with goals against Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax, Nunez earned his move to Anfield with a burgeoning reputation as a livewire forward with a clinical eye for goal.
Agent of chaos
Nunez has shown flashes of his potential since arriving in the Premier League.
The 16-cap international's presence sows panic among opposition defences — but he has yet to truly make the most of his many attributes.
Nunez has played 874 minutes of Premier League football to date, contributing five goals and two assists.
However, the 23-year-old has missed 15 big chances in the English top flight — more than anyone else. One of these was a gilt-edged opportunity early in Liverpool's recent 3-1 defeat at the hands of Brentford.
A rough diamond
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher — speaking after Liverpool's 3-2 defeat against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup last month — claimed that the Reds' No27 has shown a great deal of potential.
Carragher, 44, said: "[Nunez] is a rough diamond. He will never have a quiet game — he will either score or will show a series of missed chances. He is not the most technical in terms of finishing.
"He tries to burst the net but there is definitely something to work with — you would not want to play against him with that pace.
"I think, right now, because of the [Luis] Diaz injury he is playing through the centre — but I think when Liverpool get Roberto Firmino back he will go wide but he will become that centre forward in the future."
Liverpool need Nunez to find consistency as quickly as possible.
A title challenge is no longer on the cards but the Reds still have a great deal to play for — their priority will be pulling themselves together and finishing in the top four to secure Champions League football.
But that is not their only ambition — they may have been eliminated from the Carabao Cup by City but can look forward to a Champions League last-16 clash with Real Madrid next month.
And before that mouth-watering tie, they entertain a new-look Wolves side under the tutelage of Julen Lopetegui.
Klopp's men are the holders and will be keen to defend their title — Nunez showing the form and clinical finishing that earned him his move to Merseyside will go a long way towards helping them do that.