With Liverpool blessed with plenty of attacking talent in the form of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi’s season-long loan to Wolfsburg carries a lot of importance in terms of how his future on Merseyside will pan out.
Failure to make an impact could spell the beginning of the end for the Belgian while a string of consistent and eye-catching performances could keep him in Klopp’s long-term plans.
Having signed back in 2014, featuring in Ligue 1’s worst team of the season, there were plenty of question marks surrounding Liverpool’s capture of Origi. Yet, those were put to bed in style by the Belgian during a hugely promising 2015/16 campaign.
Showing himself to be a big, powerful, quick off the ground forward, he worked brilliantly in Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing system, pressing high up the pitch to force defenders into mistakes. Then there was his work in an attacking sense – Origi started and scored in both legs of Liverpool’s Europa League quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund, looking like a player who could really thrive in England’s top flight.
Unfortunately for Origi, things didn’t quite pan out that way the following season. The 2016/17 campaign proved to be a case of missed opportunities, with the striker struggling to show the quality that got him such rave reviews in 2015/16. Inconsistencies defined the 22-year-old’s season; there were of course still some highs, such as a stunning goal against Bournemouth where he scored from the most unlikely of angles, yet Origi’s overall performance took a clear dip in form.
Averaging 0.9 take-ons per ninety minutes compared to 1.87 in the previous campaign, he no longer presented himself as the physically dominant centre-forward. That was met by a subsequent demotion to the bench and inevitable loss in momentum and development with Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge above him in the pecking order.
Featuring from the bench 22 times and being an unused substitute on four occasions, the Belgian desperately needed a summer switch to Wolfsburg to get his development back on track in the hope he would return an in-form striker ready to fulfil his undeniable potential.
But, has that proved to be the story so far in Germany?
Scoring four goals and registering one assist in eight starts, Origi has established some impressive form in the Bundesliga as he looks to catch the eye of Jurgen Klopp and force his way back into contention at Anfield.
Eight out of nine starts in the league for Wolfsburg has allowed the Belgian to establish some confidence and, more importantly, consistency in his new surroundings that’s seen him look far more like the 2015/16 player that was on everyone’s lips.
He’s demonstrated some great movement in between the lines, allowing his teammates to carve out through balls in behind the opposition; he’s used his upper-body strength to hold up possession and challenge for aerial duels and he’s shown willingness to come out wide and open up the space for those around him – something we often see from the trio of Firmino, Mane and Salah with their flexibility and interchanging of position a nightmare for defenders.
Origi can be a real handful when he’s in a confident mood and based on his showings for the German outfit, he could yet have something to offer Liverpool. Should he return, he’d come back as a 22-year-old with experience playing in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Europa League and at the international level.