Jurgen Klopp left Newcastle on Sunday night with a welcome dilemma: how to find a starting place for his maverick striker Darwin Nunez.

After his brilliant cameo, it is inconceivable the Uruguayan will not get his chance against Aston Villa this weekend. Already a cult figure on the Kop, the manner in which Nunez took his two goals at St James’ Park transformed early season introspection into growing belief that Liverpool are a couple of canny deals from being title challengers again.

But in keeping with Nunez’s penchant for the spectacular finish, for him it seems nothing is ever simple.

Whenever Klopp is asked how Nunez can make himself a fixture in his favoured starting XI, the response is the same.

“The ticket into the team is readiness to defend,” said Klopp.

The theme continued in the immediate aftermath of Nunez’s finest 12 minutes in a Liverpool shirt, with Klopp hesitant to make guarantees while acknowledging ‘you can have worse arguments’ for a shirt.

It was an indication that Klopp and his coaches will spend as much time this week drilling the South American on his defensive responsibilities as honing his extraordinary finishing prowess.

Nunez’s absence so far this season, and for most of the closing stages of last, is solely about tactical understanding, game intelligence and application, not his natural talent.

With Klopp’s primary focus in the initial phase of his ‘reboot’ being to lay the foundations of a solid, consistent team, finding a place for an unpredictable centre-forward has been a risk he could not take in the early fixtures, especially with two of the most daunting away days.

Throughout Klopp’s reign, the success of the high pressing system has been dependent on every position working in perfect synchronicity. Last season’s serious malfunction was partly due to loss of form and the exhaustion of previously key players, and also the struggles of new players such as Nunez to quickly acclimate to the demands off the ball. It is not enough for the Uruguayan to demonstrate dazzling skills and pace in possession - generally causing mayhem to opposition defenders whenever Liverpool attacked - if he lacks the tactical discipline that made Roberto Firmino so beloved to the coach and the Kop.

Of Liverpool’s six main forwards in 2022-23 (Nunez, Firmino, Cody Gakpo, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz), Nunez won possession on the fewest occasions. Gakpo retrieved the ball over twice as much despite only joining the club in January, hence his preferred status as the counter-pressing ‘false nine’.

It was not supposed to be that way when Nunez arrived, sparking some criticism that - for the first time in Klopp’s reign - Liverpool had signed a player who needed to be completely remodelled to fit the team’s style. The most successful attacking signings such as Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Luis Suarez arrived as perfect fits. Aside from hurting Newcastle with a late winner, that gives a comparison between Nunez and Stan Collymore some weight. As when Collymore was Liverpool’s record signing in the mid-90s, there has been an element of buying raw talent without being sure how to maximise it without compromising the tried and trusted set-up.

If Nunez’s St James’ Park performance (two goals with two shots) is a signal that his productivity is on the threshold of reaching new heights, Klopp will take the rough with the smooth, even if he will need to reconfigure slightly to accommodate an out-and-out goal machine.

Only eight players across the Premier League managed more shots than Nunez last season. Across the whole of Europe, only Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe eclipsed Nunez in terms of expected goals from open play - a reflection that Nunez is adept at finding the space to score but, until Sunday, was found wanting with his goal to chance ratio. This is why Nunez has looked so raw.

If uber-confidence in front of goal has finally come, Liverpool will have the weapon they craved when they moved quickly to sign Nunez after Mane’s sale to Bayern Munich.

At the very least, Nunez has swelled Anfield expectations.

“It was something for the ages,” said vice-captain Trent Alexander-Arnold of Sunday’s win. “One of our best performances since the manager came in. I think we’ll look back on this game as something very, very special.”

Three games in, Liverpool hope they already have a season defining win. For Nunez, it needs to be Liverpool career-defining - the day when the work in progress announced he is ready to become the finished product.