Relentless Darwin Nuñez & Diogo Jota spearheading Liverpool's quadruple pursuit

Liverpool’s FA Cup clash with Norwich felt more significant because of the drama surrounding Jurgen Klopp than the match itself.

That pre-match 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' was one of the most emotional in recent memory, and the images of Klopp clearly trying hard to keep himself together was enough to turn any fan into a crying wreck.

Once the dust had settled and we had focused on the actual football again, Liverpool produced yet commanding performance – one that further suggests quadruple glory this season should be seen as a possibility.

Is it likely to happen? Of course not.

But their momentum right now is frightening, and you have to wonder if the players could find an extra gear as a goodbye gift to their legendary manager, further improving their chances of doing something legendary this term.

This is a team that is absolutely purring at the moment, with opponents being swatted aside even when a host of important individuals aren’t playing.

When Mohamed Salah headed off to Africa Cup of Nations duty, there was understandable concern about how much Liverpool would miss him, with some even wondering if it could derail their various bids for trophy glory.

The Egyptian superstar is the Reds’ best attacking player, after all, and one of the most regular suppliers of goals and assists of his generation.

Two players have really stepped up without Salah around, however, even going so far as to make his absence feel relatively unnoticeable.

The Liverpool heroes in question are Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota - two incredibly different footballers, but ones who have the bit between their teeth just when Klopp needs them to.

In Sunday’s rampant 5-2 win at home to Norwich, the pair were both on the scoresheet once again, with the former sliding home a delicious finish before half-time, and the latter lashing in a stunning effort that outlines his level of confidence right now.

Both Nunez and Jota have had their doubters at times, particularly the Uruguayan, but their performances against the Canaries were another reminder of how good they are.

If Luis Diaz and Cody Gakpo are blowing a little more hot-and-cold at the moment, but still contributing positively, their attacking colleagues look among the most in-form and dangerous players in the country.

Granted, a goal apiece at home to Championship opposition is nothing to go overboard about in isolation, but when you look at the bigger picture, most notably Nunez and Jota’s numbers in a Liverpool shirt, their quality is highlighted greatly.

In the Premier League era, the pair are in the top-five Reds players when it comes to their goal contribution-per-minute ratio in all competitions.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, Salah leads the way, chipping in with a goal or an assist every 95 minutes, while Luis Suarez (102), possibly the most talented player to ever represent Liverpool, is up next.

But then there’s Nunez (106) sitting pretty in third place.

Not bad for someone unflatteringly likened to Andy Carroll who can’t finish, right?

Some of the negativity that has been thrust in Nunez’s direction has been bordering on scandalous, from rival supporters and pundits alike, and those guilty of hyperbole surrounding his supposed shortcomings could do with having a read of this statistic.

After Nunez comes Daniel Sturridge (107) - a player who could have been a true Anfield great were it not for major injury problems – before Jota (113) completes the top five.

To have three of that quintet in Liverpool’s current squad shows how elite the quality is at Klopp’s disposal right now - it is the envy of every other manager on the planet, including Pep Guardiola.

It is worth stating that Nunez and Jota are both ahead of the likes of Fernando Torres (114), Michael Owen (117) and Robbie Fowler (121), which is a fantastic achievement from both, and they walk into the Reds’ strongest possible starting lineup.

As mentioned, the beauty of having both around is their contrasting nature as players, with the pair acting as a good foil for one another while Salah has been away.

Nunez is sheer blood-and-guts, combining pace, power and an eye for the spectacular, whereas Jota is an ice-cold killer who comes alive in and around the penalty area, showcasing clever movement and nerveless finishing.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 21, 2024: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Dean Court. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

They are players who will be worrying fans of Manchester City and Arsenal in the Premier League title race, with both Liverpool stars game-changers who can turn a match in an instant.

To have Salah coming back alongside them in the next few weeks is such a mouthwatering prospect, and for all of Liverpool’s defensive expertise and vast midfield improvements this season, it does feel like their firepower is the most likely thing to inspire them to numerous trophies in the coming months.

Those aforementioned concerns about Klopp’s attackers not standing tall with no Salah around to bail them out have turned out to be false, and the manner in which Nunez and Jota have found another gear has been so pleasing to see.

It’s now 21 goal contributions in 33 appearances for Nunez this season, and 15 in 24 for Jota, and they have netted six times between them in January alone.

Form can come and go with players, and for all we know it could be Diaz or Gakpo who feel undroppable in a few months, but for now, the idea of Liverpool’s most in-form duo alongside Salah not starting a big game feels unthinkable.

In a huge week that sees the Reds host Chelsea and then head to Arsenal in the Premier League, both without Salah involved, Nunez and Jota’s impact is again going to be absolutely vital.

You certainly wouldn’t back against them being the match-winners in either outing, as they continue to spearhead Liverpool’s relentless assault across four different competitions.

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