Premier League • England

Diogo Jota cannot help but notice major Nunez, Mane difference, adding Liverpool ‘justice’ was done

Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez, September 2022

Diogo Jota says there is clearly a big difference between life at Liverpool for Sadio Mane and new signing Darwin Nunez at the start of the season.

Nunez arrived at Anfield from Benfica in a statement £64million signing. That fee could in fact rise to a club-record £85million if add-ons come to fruition.

But despite a fast start with a Liverpool goal on his debut, the Uruguayan has failed to build on that. Instead, he received a red card against Crystal Palace and has struggled for starts since.

Indeed, Nunez came on as a substitute in Tuesday’s Champions League clashes with Ajax – and against Napoli.

The struggle to adapt to Liverpool life for Nunez is in stark contrast to Sadio Mane, who left for Bayern Munich this summer. Mane hit the ground running and ended with 120 goals in six seasons with the Reds.

Portugal star Jota has now admitted that there is a big discrepancy with how Nunez and Mane have started at Liverpool.

“We had a shaky beginning to the season,” Jota said after Tuesday’s dramatic 2-1 win over Ajax. “There were a lot of enforced changes due to the injuries.

“But the way we played tonight is the way to move forward. It felt like justice was done with that late goal.

“Darwin didn’t play too many games yet with the sending off he got. In contrast Sadio played for this team for a long period and was used to everything.

“It’s quite a big change but if we keep playing like this then it will be easier for Darwin and for everyone.

“Football is always a challenge between us to play in the games, to face different challenges as well. That’s life and football and as players you need to respond to that and survive that challenge every day.”

Jota offers Liverpool Champions League verdict

Jota admitted that it felt “frustrating” to have missed the start of the season with injury problems. But, he added that there were no “ill-effects” from his return to action against Ajax.

Liverpool took the lead in their Group A clash at Anfield through Mohamed Salah.

Their lack of clean sheets continued, though, when Mohammed Kudus hit back for Ajax. Still, just before second-half stoppage time, Joel Matip headed in Liverpool’s winner.

“I think we had a couple of chances and we were creating danger at pretty much every corner,” Jota said in his assessment.

“So I think we deserved the victory mainly because it was our last opportunity because we don’t play now until after the break, so it was a job well done.

“It was our last opportunity before the [international] break to do the right things and I think we did that today.

“We need to do whatever the calendar wants us to do and sometimes we have too many games like we often say so this time we have a break and we take it as it is.”

Reds need to build on solid performance

Liverpool were more convincing against Ajax, but there is still work to do.

There was a sense that the Liverpool of old was coming back, with high intensity in midfield and goal chances. The flurry of chances from corners was also pleasing to see.

But, the fact remains that the Reds’ three wins this season have come in vastly contrasting circumstances – and overall they have not convinced.

Two wins very late on against Ajax and Newcastle came after the 9-0 thrashing of Bournemouth.

Liverpool looked back to their best against the Cherries, but the result came after the sacking of Scott Parker. As such, it remains difficult to properly analyse where Liverpool are headed this season.

Overall, manager Jurgen Klopp can take heart from the 2-1 win over Ajax and build on what was good – rather than thinking about the unknowns from his team.