A lot has been made of Darwin Nunez’s start to life in the Premier League and how it matches up to that of Erling Haaland. On Saturday, Leeds United stopped Liverpool’s club-record signing adding to a run of four goals in five games quite impressively.
Leeds were 2-1 winners at Anfield thanks to Crysencio Summerville’s 89th minute winning goal. Their performance was aided by Jesse Marsch’s goalkeeper, Illan Meslier, who made an impressive nine saves.
Nunez forced a couple of those saves himself as he searched for more goals, yet Leeds’ goalkeeper frustrated him and, in the end, it was Marsch’s defence that came out on top.
The 23-year-old’s tactic was quite clear in that he wanted to exploit the space between Robin Koch and Rasmus Kristensen, drifting out towards the left. Koch has been superb all season and was impressive again at Anfield, whilst Kristensen continues to grow and perhaps this was his most complete performance to date in a Leeds shirt – despite his slack marking that allowed Mo Salah to cancel out Rodrigo’s opener in the 14th minute.
We will look at his defensive numbers eventually but have to start with Kristensen’s attacking output, which was much-improved.
Of the three crosses he produced, he created one shooting opportunity, a volley that Brenden Aaronson could only send crashing onto the crossbar; not enough has been made of the quality of that delivery, which was as pinpoint as pinpoint comes.
The Dane was only accurate with 69% of his passes, yet managed a 100% success rate when finding a teammate in the final third or penalty area (Wyscout) with some really crisp play as he ventured forwards. His overall contribution in possession dips as a result of his long ball success rate, which is hardly anything to worry about.
The big updated Rasmus Kristensen quiz – Can Leeds United fans score 20/20?
Kristensen’s wait for a goal contribution goes on but he’s improving in the final third, whilst clocking up some impressive defensive numbers to match.
Despite only having a defensive duel success rate of 40% and winning only 50% of his aerial duels, Kristensen managed four interceptions and 12 ball recoveries, outperforming his 22/23 average per 90 (9.06). There was also an impressive seven clearances, which is a season high for the 25-year-old and, again, well clear of an average that sits at 2.74 per 90.
Coming up against Liverpool’s tricky attack, Kristensen didn’t commit a foul in the 90 minutes, which is a feat he’s now achieved in back-to-back appearances. It’s also three outings since his last yellow card, a marked sign of his improved discipline.
Wider Premier League followers will outline Nunez’s poor touch or inability to lift a finish over an advancing Meslier, happily labelling Liverpool’s forward a “flop” and piling in on his price-tag. What they won’t do is credit Leeds’ defensive performance and particularly that of the improving Kristensen.
That’s not what generates retweets and likes on social media, which is a shame because Leeds’ right-back’s performance is more deserving of that praise than his counterpart is of the constant berating he receives.