Darwin Nunez has been threatening that sort of performance for quite some time.
The Liverpool No. 9 notched twice in the 4-0 win over Bournemouth, scoring the first and fourth goal, to become the first Premier League player this season to complete the double-double.
Nuñez has 10 goals and 10 assists across all competitions. He’s on seven goals in the Premier League for the season and six assists in just a little over 1,200 minutes. That isn’t a bad return at all for a player constantly scrutinised for his output.
He needed this sort of game though. Heading into the game at the Vitality Stadium, the former Benfica man had just one goal since November (16 games). He had chipped in with assists (six across all competitions) during that period but goals had eluded him despite the many, many chances.
Luck simply hadn’t been on his side.
The woodwork had deprived him of a goal on five occasions while his efforts in the English top-flight had an Expected Goals on Target total of 12.08 from an Expected Goals haul of 9.45, so he was adding value to his attempts.
At some point, his luck was going to change.
This might be the turning point. From here on, he might be cashing in on all of that good fortune he’d obviously banked throughout the season. What do I mean by that?
Well, take the first goal.
His movement leading up to the effort is exquisite. He initially makes a run across the defender to free up the space for Diogo Jota to receive a pass from Curtis Jones. As soon as the No. 17 plays the pass, Darwin changes his positioning to open up his body. He’s then set for the ball and is able to strike a first-time effort beyond Neto.
But he does telegraph where he’s aiming and this gives the goalkeeper a chance to set himself, as you can see in the still above. Yet he gets enough on the ball to put it beyond Neto and into the very bottom corner. Had he delayed it by half a second, the Bournemouth shot-stopper likely gets a touch to this attempt.
It is a brilliant, composed finish. But he needed a bit of luck on his side. Because, let’s be honest, he’s had opportunities like throughout the campaign but he’s been unable to convert.
Then there’s the second finish.
Again, his movement to carve out the opening is ridiculous. The cross from Joe Gomez is perfect. And the finish? Well, that was sublime.
He connects with the ball using the outside of his right foot and he’s able to send his shot back across goal and away from Neto. It clips the post and goes in. In other matches, this is the sort of effort that would’ve cannoned back off the woodwork and into play or, had he gone for the near post, ricocheted back off of the goalkeeper without him knowing that much about it.
On another day, he does everything the same but finishes with zero goals and the narrative that he’s a poor finisher continues even though he quite clearly is just unlucky. After all, generally speaking, that has been the story of his 2023/24 campaign, hasn’t it?
But because luck was very much on his side yesterday, he managed to claim two goals while silencing some of the critics who judge players purely on output.
This performance gives him a little more breathing space and if he can use it as a confidence booster, we might see a run of games now that catapult him up the goalscoring charts.