With the transfer market yet to really kick off and with very few names being linked with Leeds United, particularly strikers, I thought I’d take a look at one potential player that Leeds could target this summer. This is Darwin Núñez, the 21 year old who is a full Uruguay international is currently playing for Spanish second division side UD Almería. He’s only been at the club year since joining from CA Peñarol for a fee of around 4 million but performances have alerted the attention of clubs all around Europe with Brighton and Sheffield United reportedly keen on signing him this summer.
Darwin played in total 2889 minutes last season in all competitions, scoring 16 goals from an xG of 16.97, so slightly underperforming on his expected goals, but nothing too drastic. He averaged 2.74 shots per 90 with a very good shots on target success rate of 51.14%. In terms of defensive work, he managed a respectful 2.46 defensive duels per 90, winning 55.7% of them. He also provides an aerial threat, averaging 8.16 aerial duels per 90 at a good win percentage of 44.25%. Overall very good numbers and ones that fit the profile that Leeds would be looking for, he is hard working and he knows where the net is. The next required skill is being able to link up play and find teams mates with passes.
The Spanish leagues are quite technical and Darwin’s numbers suggest that he can link up play well. He averaged 15.14 passes per game at a slightly low success rate of 70.99, however did make 0.44 key passes per 90, which if you compare that to Patrick Bamford last season, who managed 0.23 key passes, is a good return. The overall numbers in terms of passing suggest that there is a relatively high output but an average success rate. Of course there are many factors as to why this could be the case and this is something I will look at in more depth in the eye test.
His main position is striker, who often play alone in UD Almería 4-1-4-1 system, leading the line and causing problems for the opposition’s defenders. He did however, during his playing days in South America at CA Peñarol, play as a wide player due to his strong running power. As you can see from his heat map, he does cover a lot of ground in the opposition’s half, constantly making runs in behind or coming short to help with build up play.
The eye test
As with any striker, the first thing you look for is how good they are in front of goal. Darwin scores a range of different goals including tap ins through good movement but the main one he scores is power shots. He strikes the ball with really power, with shots finishing in the roof of the net, making it so difficult for keepers to react and save them. Two perfect example below, the first being from a tight angle after good work dribbling past the defender, before firing past the keeper at the near post. The second being in a more central position after making a well timed run, once again smashing the ball past the keeper at his near post.
He often managers to get into good positions for shots due to his physical attributes. He is not only strong and really difficult to get off the ball but he also a very powerful runner. These physical attributes allow him to run in behind if teams play a high line and stretch the opposition, which in turn opens up more space in between the lines for his team mates. He is also very comfortable in wide positions where he can use his strength and speed to go beyond full backs relatively easily. The passage of play below is a prime example of that. He squares up to the opposition’s full back before pushing the ball forward and running past him.
A slightly different example but another one that shows his runs in behind and strength to keep a hold on the ball once he’s got it. He makes a bursting run from deep, manages to get to the ball before running past the defender and hitting a pretty tame shot on target.
He also uses his physical skillset when defending and is very hard working. He is more than capable of hassling defenders for the full 90 and will often run back into his own half in order to win the ball back. There are two different examples of this below, the first being him taking the ball off the opposition’s midfield who thinks he has plenty of time on the ball. The second example is him preventing a counter attacking, running back and managing to kick the ball out of play, allowing his team mates to get back into position. Such unselfish work will be appreciated massively by his team mates and certainly the manager.
Darwin is a strong physical striker with great running power with eye for goal, but does lack some technical qualities that will need to be improved upon if he’s going to make an impact at the top level once any move for him happens, which it almost certainly will this summer.
Areas for improvement
As mentioned in the stats overview, his passing can be very inconsistent, especially in the final third. In general he brings others into the game and knows his limitations and will more often than not make a simple pass before making a run in behind. However some of the more simple passes, he can misplace, as the example below shows. Despite having two pretty simple passing options and plenty of space to play into, he over hits it and runs out for a goal kick.
His goal scoring record is good but he did slightly underperform on his xG and has done throughout his short career. I don’t think it is a massive issue as he hasn’t underperformed by a great deal. It is worth noting however given that when he moves to a league of higher quality, the chances may come less frequently so it is important that he doesn’t pass them up. His next move will impact the areas of his game that he needs to fine tune, but given that he has only just turned 21, he has got plenty of time to improve his overall game.
Leeds United are after a forward that works hard, has the ability to link up well with others and can put the ball in the back of the net ahead of their Premier League return. Darwin currently ticks a lot of these boxes but still has areas to improve, however he is definitely still young enough to do so. I believe that he will move to a team in Europe’s top 5 division this summer and I think given Bielsa’s track record of improving young players, a move to Leeds could well be a good one for both parties.
Written by Thomas Wilson