Virgil van Dijk has said Darwin Núñez must restrain himself after being sent off for violent behavior during his full Premier League debut for Liverpool. The Uruguay international was “really stupid” to leave Liverpool with 10 men against Crystal Palace, according to Joachim Anderson, the defender on the receiving end of Núñez’s headbutt at Anfield on Monday.
Liverpool, already without forwards Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota due to injury, will lose their key summer signing for Premier League games against Manchester United, Bournemouth and Newcastle. He will not be available until the Merseyside derby in Everton on September 3.
Van Dijk said the 23-year-old, the first Liverpool player to be sacked for violent behavior during Jurgen Klopp’s tenure, has the support of his team-mates but needs to make sure the moment of madness doesn’t happen again.
“He absolutely has to control himself,” said the Liverpool defender. “He has to manage himself” [and] he needs to know that these things can happen, especially in the Premier League.
“He was clearly disappointed and probably with himself. But it’s a learning curve and we will always support him. He knows it shouldn’t happen again and hopefully it will be.”
Nunez will undergo an extensive training program for the season during his suspension, with Klopp planning to talk to the attacker about his loss of composure. The striker aimed two headbutts at Andersen in the 57th minute of the 1-1 draw and the Palace defender claimed Núñez was easily annoyed.
Andersen said: “The whole game I was very close to him, I annoyed him a lot and I did well against him. I think that’s why he was mad at me. He headbutted me, the first, at a cross, and I told him not to do that. I was mad at him. Then he did it again, which to me is really stupid, so it’s a clear red card.”
Liverpool have not won the first two games of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2012-13 and are already four points behind Manchester City. Van Dijk knows Liverpool will be written off prematurely after the disappointing start, but says they can ignore the noise from outside and draw encouragement from their performance against Palace.
The Dutch captain said: “I don’t want to blame different things. We want to perform well but it’s funny because we played the Community Shield and won and everyone said a lot of other things and now we’ve drawn twice and people will write us off. But that’s the outside world and we focus on what we can influence and that’s our performance.
“It was a great performance, especially with 10 men. We pressured them, made them nervous, made them kick long balls. That’s something we have to learn from, keep going, but we want to win and that’s what we’re looking for in the next game.
“We put pressure on them, we took a lot of risk because we had to score the equalizer and hoped for the winner. But we can’t come with 10 men, it can’t happen.”
Luis Diaz scored a brilliant equalizer for Liverpool four minutes after Nunez’s sacking and Van Dijk thinks the Colombian international has much more to offer this season. “Luis is a fantastic player,” he said. “It’s something we need and he provided that little bit of special action and he can do so much better.