The assistant manager of Liverpool, Pep Lijnders has thrown his weight behind star midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai after the Hungarian’s recent loss of form.
Speaking to the press ahead of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup fixture against West Ham on Wednesday, Lijnders expressed his confidence that the 22-year-old would soon refind the early-season form that set the tone for him following his summer move from RB Leipzig.
“He’s 22, he’s so young,” Lijnders stressed. “We’re really happy that he’s made an impact already. We know what he’s capable of.”
Szoboszlai started strong at Liverpool, seamlessly adapting to the Premier League and impressing with his contributions to the team’s attacking play.
However, his recent performances have seen a decline in his influence. With 32, he has dropped from first to third in chances created – behind Trent Alexander-Arnold (40) and Mohamed Salah (41) – with his last assist coming in the 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest in October.
In Sunday’s goalless draw against Manchester United, despite Liverpool’s 34 shots, he didn’t create a single chance, marking one of his worst displays for Liverpool.
Recognising the challenge posed by setting the standard so high, Lijnders said, “The only way to come back to the standard he has is to work hard. He has this character that he wants to show and be important for the team. As long as he has that, he will come back to his best.”
Another player whose levels have seemingly dropped in recent weeks is Darwin Nunez.
Lijnders, however, thinks the criticism is unfair and pointed towards the other, perhaps unseen work of the Uruguayan forward.
“I feel he is having a much better season than last year,” he said.
“The way he defends for the team, chases back, counter press…”
The Dutchman went on to explain that Darwin has had to adapt a lot, especially as the team has moved from playing with a false nine “for a long time” to accommodate a more traditional centre-forward role.
“He is learning. I like him a lot, and he is full of fire, and that is what our stadium likes. If you create a lot, the goals will come naturally. Sometimes, you just have to be a little bit lucky.”