You wait 16 months for a Divock Origi appearance in the Premier League, and then two come along within the space of a week. There’s a metaphor about public transport in there, somewhere.
Prior to his Merseyside derby heroics, scoring a frantic stoppage-time winner at Anfield, Origi’s last appearance in a Red shirt came last August, in a five-minute cameo against Watford. Back then, the iconic attacking stable of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane was in its inception.
That trio were the reason he went out on loan to Wolfsburg last season – first team football at Anfield wasn’t likely to come his way given the way those three started the campaign. It’s testament to his attitude and perseverance that well over a year later, he’s stepped up to the mark to lift the burden on the Liverpool forwards.
We’ve seen it before with the 23-year-old, granted. The early days of Jurgen Klopp’s management were littered with Origi purple patches – periods of four goals in five games, followed by long spells without finding the net. Given that he’s played a total of 72 minutes in the Premier League in the past week, scoring once and assisting James Milner for another, his recent re-emergence is not totally out of character.
So what’s different now, I hear you cry? Why should we believe that this Divock Origi, derby winner Divock Origi, coming-out-of-nowhere-to-start-against-Burnley Divock Origi, is any improvement on the one we last saw over a year ago?
The Liverpool Echo tells the story of how he earned his way back into Jurgen Klopp’s thoughts after a difficult time in Germany. They explain that he was unwanted by the Reds, and after potential moves to Dortmund and Wolves fell through for unspecified reasons, he found himself facing a season in the cold.
He didn’t let it deter him, however. Frozen out of the first team squad, he kept his head down, kept working at it, and filled in for the reserves when required – something other first team players with 80+ senior appearances under their belt would have scoffed at.
It’s this first-class attitude that earned his way back onto the bench, according to Jurgen Klopp, and eventually onto the park. The result was that winner against Everton, followed by a start against Burnley just days later.
But the most telling change since his last spell in the team comes not from Origi, but from the first-team environment at Anfield and Melwood. Against Everton, and then Burnley, he demonstrated what he can bring to the team when he isn’t expected to be the main man – a luxury afforded by the wealth of attacking talent now boasted by the Reds.
He’s a different kind of attacker to any other on the books at Liverpool. Salah, Firmino and Mane’s attributes are self explanatory given their records, while Sturridge offers some composed class in the central areas, and Xherdan Shaqiri can be a wizard with the ball at his feet.
All are menacingly effective at their best, and as Origi has shown of late, so is he. When the personal pressure is off and he can challenge for first team places with the responsibility shouldered by his more esteemed counterparts, his blend of pace, physicality and technical prowess can surely be an asset on a consistent basis. If one thing is certain about him, after all, it’s that he has the natural footballing ability.
Perhaps the key to him finding his feet as a Liverpool player will be that he isn’t required to be a Liverpool player. He could just as easily be cast aside, forgotten about, and leave for free in the summer when his contract is up. Less than a week ago, that was the likely scenario, and Liverpool were no weaker for it. The onus is entirely on him to prevent that eventuality.
In all seriousness, it’s too early to be calling it a revival for Origi. When the dust of the hectic Christmas schedule fades, we’ll have a clearer idea of where he stands.
As of now, he’s sixth choice for one of three attacking positions, and if that remains his place in the pecking order then you will struggle to see a long-term future for him, even under a manager who likes rotation – and scrappy, last-gasp derby winners – as much as Klopp seems to.
The question is whether or not he can use the festive period, littered with games every three or four days, to press on and establish himself as a clear option. To that end, he has started well.