English Premiership

Origi thrives as bit-part player and headline maker for Liverpool

2019-12-06 08:12
Divock Origi
Divock Origi (Getty Images)

London - Jurgen Klopp raised eyebrows with his team selection before the Merseyside derby but, as the leaders look to record a 33rd consecutive Premier League game without defeat, it is Divock Origi who is the talk of Anfield.

The Reds visit Bournemouth on Saturday, having set a new club mark for the most consecutive top flight games unbeaten in their storied history.

But the most alarming aspect for their rivals of that 5-2 win over Everton -- a result that cost losing manager Marco Silva his job -- was the manner in which Klopp was able to showcase the depth in his squad.

The 24-year-old Origi has long been guaranteed a place in Liverpool folklore, for the manner in which he won last season's Merseyside derby and also helped his team reach the Champions League final, scoring twice in the extraordinary semi-final 4-0 win over Barcelona.

Now, his two-goal display in Wednesday's clinical derby victory has highlighted his improvements and his potential to play a pivotal role off the bench should Liverpool go on to win their first league title win in 30 years.

The front line selection of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino remains automatic and, arguably, the best trio in European football.

Yet Klopp felt confident enough to rest Salah and Firmino against Everton, selecting Origi as the number nine, the central point of Liverpool's three-pronged attack.

That role is essential to Klopp's tactical game plan, not so much for attacking reasons but because Liverpool's formidable, full-press defensive system is predicated upon the job performed by that number nine.

It also explains why Firmino has become such a key figure in Klopp's Anfield success and why Origi had usually been used in a wide position -- still a vital part of the system, obviously, but not as integral as that central job.

French legend Thierry Henry, a television pundit for the derby, instantly picked up on that point as Origi took on that Firmino task.

"What is important for Divock Origi now is that he played in the middle and that is a great sign of respect from Jurgen Klopp because before he was playing him on the right, on the left," said Henry.

Belgian international Origi, signed from Lille five years ago, was not alone in sending out a timely message about Klopp's strength in depth.

Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri started a league game for the first time since January as part of the forward three and also caught the eye, scoring another of the rampant Reds' goals.

Despite a host of injuries, and limited first team opportunities since joining the club in a surprise move from Stoke 16 months ago, Shaqiri has scored seven Premier League goals in just 12 starts, and a further 15 appearances off the bench.

With Liverpool facing one of the most gruelling schedules in the history of the modern game in December, Klopp will have no choice but to rotate his squad and those two individual performances, in particular, will have given Liverpool supporters even more optimism that an end to their title drought is in sight in 2020.

"We knew these boys were good," said Klopp after the Everton win. 

"We don't have a big squad because of injuries but young boys make impressions from behind too.

"We know the quality we have. They really push from behind so that's cool. That was the first game of a tough fixture list. We have to make changes and we will make changes." 

Klopp will be without injured Fabinho once more for the visit to Bournemouth and, given the need to rotate his squad, it will be interesting to see whether little-used Naby Keita has forced his way back into contention. 

 

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Fixtures
Saturday, 18 January 2020
Watford v Tottenham Hotspur, Vicarage Road 14:30
Norwich City v AFC Bournemouth, Carrow Road 17:00
Arsenal v Sheffield United, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Manchester City v Crystal Palace, Etihad Stadium 17:00
West Ham United v Everton, London Stadium 17:00
Southampton v Wolverhampton Wanderers, St. Mary's Stadium 17:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Aston Villa, The American Express Community Stadium 17:00
Newcastle United v Chelsea, St. James' Park 19:30
Sunday, 19 January 2020
Burnley v Leicester City, Turf Moor 16:00
Liverpool v Manchester United, Anfield 18:30
Tuesday, 21 January 2020
Sheffield United v Manchester City, Bramall Lane 21:30
Everton v Newcastle United, Goodison Park 21:30
Crystal Palace v Southampton, Selhurst Park 21:30
Aston Villa v Watford, Villa Park 21:30
AFC Bournemouth v Brighton & Hove Albion, Vitality Stadium 21:30
Chelsea v Arsenal, Stamford Bridge 22:15
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