Martin King takes a look at Divock Origi’s place in the Liverpool side with performances recently failing to convince.
On the back of Liverpool’s vital victory over West Ham United in the Premier League last Sunday – which saw the Reds take one step closer to qualifying for the UEFA Champions League – talks of how and where manager Jürgen Klopp should improve his squad have been rife, with the curious case of striker Daniel Sturridge dominating headlines.
One man who has often done enough to keep himself out of the media buzz, though, is Divock Origi. With every one of Klopp’s players fully fit, it would certainly be easy to list more than two names above the young Belgian in the pecking order and the upcoming summer transfer window will likely add more, however, that hasn’t stopped Origi being one of the most sung names amongst adoring Kopites because he is undoubtedly the Kop’s young love.
Still, Origi’s love affair with the Anfield faithful goes a journey back to last season, his first ever since initially joining Liverpool from French Ligue 1 side Lille back in 2014.
From Ligue 1’s worst team to Klopp’s pressing machine
After being sent back to Lille on a season-long loan deal and returning in rather misleading circumstances – that being named in the Ligue 1 “worst team of the season” by French newspaper L’Equipe – Origi joined up with his new Liverpool side, then led by Northern Irishman Brendan Rodgers.
The Belgian expectedly played most of his initial game time from the bench under Rodgers, with fans only seeing glimpses of their new man, however, with the arrival of Jürgen Klopp came a season of new opportunities for Origi.
At that time, October 2015, the German boss had brought a fresh burst of positivity to the club but not long after there would be negatives, as two of the Reds’ first choice strikers in Danny Ings and Daniel Sturridge were struck by long-term injuries, leaving Origi as Klopp’s only fit centre-forward.
The Belgian would make up Klopp’s first ever starting eleven in the German’s first match in charge of Liverpool, a clash against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Just two months later he introduced himself to Liverpool fans fittingly, scoring his first competitive goals in Liverpool’s 6-1 thrashing of Southampton and he would add to that with his first Premier League goal against West Bromwich Albion a week later, earning the Reds a point in a 2-2 draw.
By then, it was quite clear that the Merseyside club had themselves a striker with the potential to be a great. Origi’s height, strength, pace, dribbling and finishing skills were and are still key attributes that make him stand out as a player and his willingness to adapt his game to Klopp’s counter-pressing philosophy stood him in good stead with the German, meanwhile, if you didn’t know just how much the fans were falling in love with him, then you only had to wait until February 14, 2016.
In what was a Valentines’ Day thrashing of Aston Villa by Liverpool, Origi came on as a substitute to score his side’s fourth of six goals at Villa Park and as he threw himself into the travelling fans in celebration, one particular fan sealed the striker’s face with a kiss, proving that the fans’ love for Origi is truly beyond doubt.
A couple more goals, including one each in Liverpool’s Europa League quarter-final ties with Borussia Dortmund did little to kill that love, earning him Klopp’s trust as he ended the 2015/16 season with ten goals in all competitions.
A season later and Origi is still “one to watch“
Having displayed his ability and produced pleasing numbers for a player of his age last season, the sensible thing to do would’ve been to back Origi to kick on from that by making himself a mainstay in the Liverpool team.
However, that hasn’t quite been the case this season.
Pleasing enough, Origi’s goal against West Ham last weekend was his eleventh of the season in all competitions (meaning the striker has bettered last season’s tally) but that most, if not all, of those goals have come either when Klopp has rotated his side for a low-key occasion, in the absence of top forwards in Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino or straight from the substitutes’ bench is rather telling: Origi is still not Liverpool’s first-choice striker.
Rather than frown at that, though, a lot of encouraging perspective must be taken. Origi is still only 22-years-old, the Belgian has time on his side to not only develop into one of Liverpool’s first-choice strikers but a top quality one for that matter.
There is obviously the good question of “Just how is he going to grow without regular game-time?” The upcoming summer transfer window will very likely see Klopp bring in a number of top class attackers into his Liverpool team and should the Reds successfully qualify for the Champions League, Origi will not only hopefully have some of Europe’s best to learn from, he will, in fact, have multiple opportunities to put it to practice, as Liverpool’s fixture schedule will surely be larger than this season’s.
Improvements, such as a more ruthless approach towards scoring goals, definitely have to be made upon the Belgian’s game and despite the likely fact he will still be given the “future star” tag for a while, Origi is playing under a manager that will surely develop him into the star his potential says he can be.
However long it takes the striker Liverpool wants him to be to arrive, though, chants of his name will surely continue to ring loud around Anfield, meaning Origi will undoubtedly remain loved by the Anfield faithful.