The popular Belgian faces huge uncertainty this summer
It was with disappointment for some fans that Divock Origi was sent on loan to Wolfsburg in August last season. The young Belgian striker was about to begin his third season in Liverpool’s first team before being shunted off to Germany on the last day of the summer transfer window.
The arrival of Salah, a switch to a formation which is actually hindered by an out and out striker, as well as his poor season with Die Wolfe have left the club and the player with a decision to make. Does he have a future as a squad or impact player or is it time up for the twenty-three year old as the club looks to mike strides?
Coming off the back of habitual failures up front such as Borini, Aspas, Lambert and Balotelli (shudder) Origi was a pleasant surprise. Following his loan to Lille after a ten million pounds transfer the previous summer, initial reports though were not encouraging. He was heavily criticized by the Lille’s supporters despite a reasonable if not spectacular goal return. He was young and far from prolific, and came to most of our collective awareness after a couple impressive World Cup appearances for Belgium. Sound familiar?
However, his first steps in the first teamwere very positive. He looked confident and not out of place. A good first touch, natural strength and good finishing lead a lot of us to rethink this lad from Ostend. Heads were turned when he thundered in a ridiculously confident hat-trick against Southampton in the League Cup, suddenly he was first team material.
His goal return for Liverpool was always decent; whilst never prolific, you always felt the goals would come in a regular run of games. This finally arrived in 16/17 as he hit five goals in five games during a winter injury crisis and won us some vital points. Origi’s strikes against Dortmund in that epic Europa League Quarter Final showed that he could up the ante when required as well. In short, he never let anyone down.
Pit falls of the loan system
On the face of it, the loan to Wolfsburg actually looked a smart move. They’re a solid Bundesliga side and play decent football. Being brutally honest as well, there were times when Origi’s lack of top level quality was a hindrance. Klopp’s game cannot have such a set in stone player. He needs fluid players who can drop back into midfield and press, or pop up in the striker’s position to apply a finish. Origi’s game is not in this mould at all.
It was genuinely disheartening then to see him struggle for form last season as his side fell down the league and the goals dried up. He started well in enough with four in nine fairly typical for the Belgian, but he hit one hell of a rut. There was a real horror show moment for him as well as he missed an open goal against RB Leipzig from roughly two yards out. He managed just one in seventeen after January and came under real fire for his drought. He has since dropped out of international consideration and looked short of confidence as he sat on the bench for a large chunk of the season.
Is it fair to judge him finished though, based on this one campaign? Wolfsburg slumped to sixteenth place and faced a relegation play off at the end of season to stay up. Yes on the surface it looked a good move, but for both parties it never looked like working out. Would he have done a lot better at a club playing with more confidence or has he reached his career plateau? How he recovers from this will tell us all a lot more about him as a player.
Liverpool have four forwards still officially at the club. Origi will link up with Liverpool for pre-season as the club weighs up its options. Don’t bet against all four men leaving thouh. Ings is nowhere near good enough sadly, Sturridge looks a husk of the player he once was and Solanke looks like he could use a loan move to get some goals behind him.
If Origi is not at the required level then this is little point keeping him on the books, even as a squad player. There is an argument to suggest he could play some minutes next season, if only in the cups. However, Klopp is likely to want runners and pressers as we look to build and kick on from last season. If Origi cannot adapt his game then he will be surplus to requirements.
Unfortunately the writing looks like it is on the wall for the Belgian. He has never let anyone down at Liverpool and endeared himself to the Kopp with his goals and confidence. It may well have worked out differently with another manager, but you would back Klopp’s decision making if he were to jettison the player this summer.