How Liverpool could line up under Arne Slot if Victor Osimhen replaces Darwin Núñez

Victor Osimhen of SSC Napoli celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Serie A TIM match between SSC Napoli and AS Roma - Serie A TIM  at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on April 28, 2024 in Naples, Italy.
Liverpool has been linked with an audacious transfer swoop for Napoli forward Victor Osimhen. -Credit:Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Jürgen Klopp is leaving behind a talented Liverpool squad. But Arne Slot, should he be appointed as expected, will also be inheriting plenty of questions.

Some of those have grown in volume over the last month or so, as Liverpool's title challenge has disintegrated along with hopes of further silverware. It must be remembered that Klopp has still vastly improved the side that missed out on Champions League qualification last season, but there are problems that need to be solved.

For instance, Slot will be taking over a team that is chronically incapable of keeping clean sheets. That's come to the fore in recent weeks, but it's been a recurring theme all season, with the comebacks that peppered the earlier parts of the campaign only made possible by a habit of going behind.

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Then, at the other end of the pitch, there's Darwin Núñez. To be fair, Slot could ask questions of just about any of the Liverpool forwards based on recent form, but the Uruguayan has come to embody the finishing woes that have ultimately derailed Klopp's final season at the helm.

Now nearing the end of his second season at Liverpool, Núñez was supposed to have done more by now. Adored by the Kop from the word 'go' for his general air of chaos and habit of attracting chances for himself, the theory was that he would ignite in front of goal in year two, just like he did at Benfica.

Instead, there's now a sizeable body of evidence that Núñez is simply not a good finisher. That has to be weighed against that prolific Benfica campaign which inspired Liverpool to break its transfer record in the first place, but it's hard to make the case that the 24-year-old is effectively on a two-year run of bad luck.

If he could even revert to average finishing, Núñez would be massive asset for any side chasing the top honors, given his knack for getting in dangerous positions. Slot will need to decide how much patience he is willing to show. But the presence of Victor Osimhen on the market adds an interesting dimension to the dilemma.

According to Corriere dello Sport, Osimhen wants to leave Napoli this summer, and Liverpool has joined the list of suitors. PSG, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have also been credited with an interest.

The Nigerian would not come cheap in terms of transfer fee or wages, and would be a departure from the classic Liverpool recruitment model. But at 25, Osimhen is entering his peak years, and is almost the anti-Núñez in terms of having a long track record of matching or exceeding his expected goals.

Sharing many of the same tendencies to get in good positions, there's a case that Osimhen could instantly elevate Liverpool, even if it would come at the cost of a ruthless call on Núñez. And the player himself would surely consider a pitch from Anfield; he has a preference for the Premier League, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, and neither Chelsea nor Manchester United will be able to offer Champions League football.

How could Slot line up if he pulled off this hypothetical coup? Well, there's plenty he could do with the Liverpool XI, but Osimhen would instantly merit a place through the middle upon his arrival.

The question would then be who should play either side of him. There's a chance that Cody Gakpo could thrive in his natural left-wing role under the management of his compatriot, and as one of Liverpool's youngest options, he has the pace and explosiveness that Slot likes from his wingers. He's not always shown that in various positions under Klopp, but the template from his PSV days is clear.

On the right, amid the news that Mohamed Salah is set to stay, he's surely at least the starting point for Slot. Like Klopp, he may ultimately feel compelled to leave him out of certain games, and that's a tension he will need to navigate, but the default assumption is that the right wing belongs to the Egyptian.

That leaves Luis Díaz and Diogo Jota as very handy bench options. Slot has often changed his wingers after an hour or so in the Eredivisie, given the intensity he demands, and these would be highly effective substitutes to have at his disposal. Núñez himself could in theory occupy the same role, although it's hard to imagine him sticking around if Osimhen were to arrive.

Ultimately, Núñez has shown the potential to match or even exceed Osimhen, and Slot and the transfer team are probably likely to hold their nerve with him. But in the event of the swap being made, the potential attack looks deadly, something we've not been able to say about Liverpool lately.