As we enter the final stretch of the football season, Liverpool legend John Barnes shares his views on comparisons between Fernando Torres and Darwin Nunez, the progress of Stefan Bajcetic and the partnership between Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate. Barnes also discussed the possibility of Mason Mount joining The Reds this summer.
Is Darwin Nunez the new Fernando Torres
The form of Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez has been a topic of discussion for much of the season. It has certainly been a season of ups and downs for the 23 year old Uruguayan. Since moving to a left sided forward position rather than as a number nine, Nunez has seemed to have found his place in this Liverpool squad. Recently former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez likened Nunez to Fernando Torres. Whilst Barnes does see similarities between the pair, he doesn’t see a like-for-like Torres prototype in Nunez.
“I think that Fernando Torres came into Liverpool and scored goals straight away and the crowd loved him straight away. He didn’t come into a team that was necessarily struggling and if it was, he was always scoring goals.”
“In terms of the way they play, they both like to come in from the left onto their right foot. I feel that Fernando was more of a CF, to score goals, than Darwin, possibly.”
“But in terms of their physicality, their pace, their commitment, their determination, they’re similar in that respect.”
The rise of Stefan Bajcetic
Despite the midfield area being a cause for concern for Liverpool this season, there has been a shining light for the club. Stefan Bajcetic has broken into the Liverpool side this season and has grown from strength to strength despite the team’s overall struggles. Despite being pleased with the progress of Bajcetic, Barnes is cautious with applying too much hype around a player who is enjoying his first full professional season.
“I don’t want to put pressure on young players and say they’re coming to a team not playing consistently well so therefore they’re the ones to take Liverpool to where they are. Because you shouldn’t do that to young players because if he gets in the team regularly and they keep losing, his confidence may drop. People may say we need to sign better players than him.”
“So, he’s been a shining light along with Nunez, but let’s not put pressure on him at his age to come into a Liverpool team who’s not playing well as they can to say that he should be playing every week.”
“If everyone is fit, I would like to see him being treated with kid’s gloves and not have the crowd expect too much from him. If we over-emphasise what he can be and say he’s already that and he should be in the team week-in week-out, that could put too much pressure on him.”
“He’s great in terms of what he’s doing but every now and then I’m sure you pull him out.”
Are van Dijk and Konate the Premier League’s best centre halves?
For much of the season Liverpool have been forced to change their centre half partnerships due to injuries. Since joining Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk has established himself as the clubs number one central defender. Despite showing much promise fellow defender Ibrahima Konate’s time at Liverpool has been blighted by injuries. However, when fit Barnes doesn’t think the Premier League has two players better in that position.
“I don’t look at partnerships – central defensive or striking or midfield. I look at the way the teams play.”
“If you look at van Dijk and whoever he played with in the past – whenever you had a midfield and front three working hard to stop teams getting at them, they do what they do.”
“Then all of a sudden because we have a different midfield makeup and teams are getting at us and we’re conceding goals – are they worse than they were two years ago? No they’re not.”
“So, the team has to play well, but if you look at them individually as defenders, I don’t see many better than them. I don’t see better individuals than them in the league.”