In his last two press conferences, Jurgen Klopp has spoken highly of Divock Origi. The striker is set to lead the line for the rest of the season as he replaces Sadio Mané in the starting eleven, and the Liverpool manager will hope these words can spur him on.
Origi may not be a direct replacement for injured first-teamer Sadio Mané, but as recent games have shown he’s the next player in line when it comes to being trusted by Jurgen Klopp.
He replaced the Senegalese against Everton and has retained his place since, but his form has been up and down since entering the team.
Coming on for Mané against Everton he was as good as. if not better than, the man he replaced. He was direct and unafraid to shoot from the off, and was rewarded with a goal which sealed a comfortable derby win.
He led the line against Bournemouth and continued from where he left off in the Merseyside derby. Though the team performance on this day was inconsistent, the Belgian striker showed some promising signs, not least when he headed home Georginio Wijnaldum’s cross.
But in the next game, against Stoke, he was anonymous. Being fair to him it could be said that playing up front with 17-year-old Ben Woodburn was asking too much of a player who himself only celebrated his 22nd birthday last week. But Woodburn outshone him in the first half, and Origi failed to step up and become the leader of the attack.
West Brom provided a similar challenge, but this time he had Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino either side of him.
Despite another slow start he came into the game in the second half, holding the ball well against a very physical defence which provided space for those around him.
“I thought it was a very special game for Divock Origi today,” commented Klopp after the game.
“He’s still a young boy and he has his ups and downs, but that’s how it is with young boys. But today, against this defence, he was physically strong and technically good.
“He defended well and, honestly, it was a really good game. I don’t look for [a man of the match] because I don’t care about it. But I thought, for a striker who didn’t score a goal, it was a nice performance.”
Klopp doesn’t like to pick out individual players in his press conferences, so when he does so there’s usually a reason behind it.
These comments will give the striker confidence for the run-in where he’s likely to start every game.
In his pre-match press conference ahead of the Crystal Palace game, the Liverpool manager echoed his previous comments on the striker, and gave further insight as to why he thought his performance against West Brom so impressive, despite him not getting on the score sheet.
“It’s not a spectacular game if you want, but he had these moments when he kept the ball for us,” said Klopp.
“Really physical against this defensive line from West Brom. That’s really difficult and this helped us so much.
“Having one or two chances, being involved in two or three more offensive situations, that’s what a strikers life is somehow. You cannot always be the guy who makes the last touch and easy goal.
“That’s what I thought was a big step for him, but we all know he was already in a shape like this last year, around the Everton game and even before the Everton game, but then had an injury and he needed time to get that level again.
“We have to do everything to help him get consistency in this, and in this moment how it looks in training and everything he’s obviously in a good way.”
On the face of it Origi’s performance against West Brom wasn’t outstanding, which is what Klopp means when he says “not spectacular”, but the underlying statistics back up the idea that he was very important to the win.
He created two chances, was successful in each of his three attempts to dribble past the opponent, and though there is no statistic for hold-up play, his touch map shows plenty of involvement in the middle of the park as he dropped deep to help the side retain possession.
This allowed fellow attackers Coutinho and Firmino to break either side of him, and meant that midfielders Wijnaldum and Emre Can had an attacking focal point to aim for.
Heading into the game against Crystal Palace Klopp will be hoping for more of the same from the Belgian, and he’ll hope the praise and encouragement will give the player confidence against a tough, physical, Allardycian defence.
For Origi it’s the ideal opportunity for him to prove his worth to the side, and maintain his place in the pecking order ahead of the seemingly unfancied Daniel Sturridge.
A good run of games will mean he retains his place in the attack for the rest of the season. It might also convince Klopp that he has a bigger part to play next term, and the money available this summer can be spent improving other areas of the squad.
Written by James Nalton