"The fact that Sadio Mane isn't playing here shows just how much Liverpool lack depth in their attacking options."
That, or at least words to that effect, was Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports during Liverpool's 4-1 victory over Norwich City on Friday night. He said this in the second half, after watching Divock Origi - standing in for Mane - force an own goal and head in another to put the Reds 4-0 up.
Regardless of the context clearly contradicting his analysis, the sentiment is one echoed among the Reds' social media faithful, who demanded the signings of Nicolas Pepe and a multitude of others this summer.
The desire to see your team sign the best of the best is of course understandable, but put simply, the crème de la crème of forwards in world football are not prepared to take second choice status.
Sure, Manchester City can sign Riyad Mahrez without any guarantees of first team football, but can Liverpool offer the extreme squad rotation heralded by Pep Guardiola?
Barcelona, similarly, can go in for Antoine Griezmann, but with the view to him assuming the role of Luis Suarez within a season or two. Liverpool's front three are at the peak of their powers, and going nowhere.
If Liverpool were to sign anyone in the attacking third, they needed a hard-working alternative to Salah, Firmino and Mane. Someone content to start most games from the bench, but also possessing the requisite ability to step in and change games every week if required. A versatile forward with the right attitude, European experience, and a proven record in the high-pressure games.
At the standard demanded by the European champions, really only one such player exists in the world of football. Liverpool signed him to a five-year deal in July.
Carragher's words, alluding to Divock Origi lacking the ability to stand in for Mane, came after a first half in which he forced an own goal and headed in another to put his side 4-0 up by half-time. They came after a season in which he started just seven games, and scored seven goals, including winners in a Merseyside Derby, the Champions League semi-finals, and of course the clincher in Madrid.
His words show that, despite his cult hero status at Anfield and obvious big-game pedigree, the Belgian is yet to shake off a good deal of the negative perception surrounding him. Yet if there was a 24-year-old playing elsewhere on the continent, hitting the sort of numbers Origi managed last season, you can bet your bottom dollar (and the rest of them for that matter) that pundits and fans alike would be clamouring for Liverpool to sign him.
Statistically, in fact, he performed better than any of the first-choice front three. While it sounds questionable to say it, he quite freakishly averaged a goal every 109 minutes he was on the pitch in 2018/19. Golden boot winners Salah and Mane managed 160 and 165 respectively, while Firmino netted once every 212 minutes. When you factor in assists, it was a direct contribution every 95 minutes for Divock; Salah managed 108, Mane 139 and Firmino 141.
Of course, unlike the senior contributors, Origi's output was concentrated into spells. He appeared in all of the Champions League knockout matches, for example, but it took until the semi-final second leg against Barcelona, when he started, to get off the mark.
The stats don't prove that he is a better player, nor that he is on the world class level of his counterparts.
The frequency and timing of his goals, however, prove definitively that he can pull his weight in the team, and that there is no realistic signing that could fill the very niche, crucial role he plays within Jurgen Klopp's squad.
Instead of spending £100m on new signings this summer, Liverpool opted to spend heavily on renewing the contracts of their existing stars, and in doing so secured Origi beyond the next 12 months. The season ahead is a long one, but his displays over the last year suggest that he may just be the Reds' signing of the summer.
Source : 90min