It’s Time To Say ‘So Long Divock, And Thanks For All The Goals’

The match against FC Midtjylland was a slog to watch. We can try to dress it up however we want, but it wasn’t fun. The Reds barely came out of first gear and struggled to attain any sort of fluidity. There are loads of mitigating factors for that, of course. The lack of fans in the stadium means that there was no real sense of urgency, though it’s also right to acknowledge that Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool teams have put in lacklustre performances even when Anfield’s been bouncing. The general makeshift nature of the side will have had an influence, as will the injury to Fabinho relatively early on in the game. Perhaps the biggest thing is that the makeshift team that end up losing a centre-back after half an hour was being asked to play a new formation that they’re far from used to. In many ways, it’s little wonder that everything seemed disjointed and the Reds looked a little bit lost for most of the first forty-five minutes or so.

Patchy performances are likely to be what we see more often than not this season, owing to how many games need to be crammed into such a small amount of time. I also think we’ll see plenty of injuries, which the team will have to learn to cope with. Indeed, my instinct is that the manager that is able to get their side to cope with no crowds, injuries and games coming thick and fast may well be the one that watches his captain lift a trophy or two come the end of the season. Jürgen Klopp and his backroom staff have proven themselves to be adept at responding to whatever is thrown their way, so you wouldn’t put it beyond them to be the ones to achieve just that. The manager will have to find answers to some tough questions if he wants to see his side lift more silverware when this campaign reaches its conclusion, with one of the chief ones being whether or not there’s room for Divock Origi. A cult hero he may be, but is that enough for modern Liverpool?

He’s Given Us Plenty Of Memories

The first thing to acknowledge about Divock Origi is that he’s been at the heart of some brilliant memories that Liverpool supporters have made in recent years. The scourge of Evertonians on more than one occasion, he’ll go down as a cult hero for the Reds thanks to the winner he scored after ninety-six minutes when Jordan Pickford’s arms weren’t quite long enough to do anything useful with the ball. It’s also easy to forget how good he was looking during the 2015-2016 season, scoring the first goal in our comeback against Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League. Who know what track his career would have taken had Everton’s Ramiro Funes Mori not decided to stamp on his ankle in a game that the Blues were always going to lose. There are plenty of moments that I’m sure I’m forgetting about Origi’s Liverpool career, but the issue that the striker has is that his career has been exactly that: one of moments.

Perhaps nothing sums his time at Liverpool up better than his performance in the Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the 2018-2019 season. From the moment he came on he was unable to make anything stick, with every touch being too heavy and every pass being woeful. He did practically nothing of any use, apart from score the goal that made it 2-0 and put the game beyond doubt. Of course, scoring that goal will mean that he’s forever earned a place in Liverpudlian hearts, but the performance that came before he scored it should have given the manager pause for thought about his place in the squad. I’d readily admit that Jürgen Klopp seems to love him a lot more than I do, believing that he can do a job when he’s called upon. The German is significantly better at football than I’ll ever be, but that’s why bidding goodbye to the Belgian is one of those difficult decisions that he’s going to have to make in the coming months.

He’s Where Our Attacks Go To Die

Whether it be his goals against Barcelona to get us to the Champions League final, his finish when we got there or the number of times that he’s humiliated Everton, there are plenty of reasons to love Divock Origi. The main issue is that this Liverpool team isn’t set up for a player with the Belgian’s skillset. Had Aston Villa signed him in the summer, for example, then I genuinely believe that he’d get ten to fifteen goals for them. When he plays in our side, however, he’s the place that good attacks go to die. He isn’t quick enough of mind or body to be part of a free-flowing attack and more often than not he chews position for so long that the opposition has regrouped and tackled him. We saw it repeatedly against Midtjylland, with the attacker being the reason that our moves broke down more often than not. Had this been a one-off then I’d be inclined to put it down to the same reasons then entire team wasn’t great, but it isn’t a one-off.

The tongue-in-cheek question of ‘can he play centre-back’ is answered with a not altogether joking response acknowledging that he definitely knows how to break up attacks. The signing of Diogo Jota in the summer as well as the January arrival of Takumi Minamino means that Origi’s place in this Liverpool side is already much further down the pecking order than it was. If Harvey Elliott continues to develop at the same rate then it’s not hard to imagine that he’ll move above the Belgian in Klopp’s thinking too. It’s not that Origi is a bad player, far from it. It’s just that he’s not the right sort of player for how the German wants his Liverpool team to play and that will forever be a problem. I’ll never not think of him fondly in the years to come, but right now when I see his name on the team sheet I can’t help but think that the match ahead is going to be graft to watch. He’s a man of many moments, but this is a team that has evolved past one-off moments.

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