Jurgen Klopp has been hugely impressed with his back-up squad after Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-1 in the Community Shield, as he railed against the nature of player judgment in pre-season.
Liverpool triumphed in a hard-fought clash with the Premier League champions at the King Power Stadium on Saturday thanks to goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez.
The latter impressed with a 30-minute appearance from the bench, marking his debut in English football in style and surpassing City’s big-money striker – Erling Haaland – in the process.
Nunez headed in a cross from the left wing in stoppage time to put Liverpool two goals ahead, shortly before Haaland inexplicably hit the crossbar at the other end after that Adrian prevented Phil Foden’s shot.
Signed from Benfica after a stellar 2021-22 campaign, in both the Portuguese First Division and the Champions League, Nunez had some tough opening games for Liverpool at the start of pre-season but he scored four in a 5-0 rout of RB Leipzig. Last week.
His impact from the bench on Saturday was telling, with the 23-year-old having four attempts on goal, two of them on target, and it was his header into Ruben Dias’ right arm that netted Liverpool a penalty after Julian Alvarez had city level drawn.
“It was good, it was really good,” Klopp said of Nunez’s debut in his post-match press conference.
“It’s clear that he will improve over time. Everyone is judged at first sight. It doesn’t help anyone, but it happens all the time.
“Both teams were not 100% in their usual physical situation today. But in the first [pre-season] games we weren’t even close to the level today. [In those games] everyone judges their first touches and that kind of stuff and it’s a joke, but you have to live with it. We are patient, we knew he could do good things.
“We all know – [strikers are] a special species – and everyone knows the positive aspects, the implications of the goals. I think Darwin, even without scoring the third, [would have scored] because the penalty was off his head, and before that Ederson reacted brilliantly [to make a save when one-on-one with the Uruguayan].
“The goal was the icing on the cake. For him, you could see his face, how happy the boys are for him. It’s a very good sign after a short time.”
Nunez became the fourth player to score on his competitive debut for Liverpool under Klopp, following Sadio Mane, Salah and Virgil van Dijk, but the striker was not the only substitute to impress the Liverpool manager, who has won the Community Shield for the first time at the third time to ask.
“Today I liked the impact, in a top game. As good as we are, the impact from the bench was really outstanding. A very good sign,” said Klopp, who brought on Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, James Milner, Harvey Elliott and debutant Fabio Carvalho as well as Nunez.
“A good watch, a good game. Both teams used what was available today, that’s what we would have expected.”
Asked by Stats Perform if the nature with which Liverpool regained control in the latter stages bodes well for his side’s fitness ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, Klopp said: “It was really nice for me. is the toughest opponent you can get, they don’t get better.
“Their team, the boys he could bring in, that’s a very experienced and proven quality. We have space to improve the quality from the bench. Harvey’s impact. Millie [Milner], I don’t know what level he can reach this year to be honest! Curtis and Naby – wow – so good. »
Liverpool take on Strasbourg in a friendly on Sunday at Anfield, before focusing on promoted Fulham in their Premier League opener of the season.