Divock Origi‘s link to Aston Villa is both expected and exciting, but the Belgian forward isn’t the kind of player Aston Villa need.
Words: Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH
We have all heard it time and time again in football.
“Mate, if that player becomes available, we should swoop in for him. He’s not getting loads of game time. He may be a little frustrating to watch sometimes, but I think he could come in and do a job.”
Enter Aston Villa: an Aston Villa who finished seventeenth in the Premier League by a single, solitary point. To use the phrase “by the skin of their teeth” would be a gross overstatement. The miracle survival at Villa this past season was more like Andre The Giant hanging off of a cliff by a thread, yet somehow found the will to survive the drop to the jagged rocks below.
It wasn’t a pretty season for Villa and you don’t have to travel too far from the Midlands for that opinion to pop up. The uniquely high investment by the Villa ownership was necessary in the summer and again in January, but looked from the outside like gross over-payment for players who don’t have the previous history of consistent performances.
It seems yet again, Villa will splash the cash to further strengthen a team who at times looked unable to defend, score a goal or maintain Premier League survival.
Villa supporters saw more footballs wound up floating in the River Tame than they did on the heads of their strikers. The strikers themselves looked to be complete footballers minus the “striking” aspect of their football position on the pitch. The basic instincts of footballers at the Premier Level were rarely on display by those in a Claret and Blue shirt this season: concentration, work rate, skill and determination.
With all of this considered, Aston Villa supporters seemed a little more than divided when a report from The Sun identified that Liverpool striker Divok Origi is a transfer target for the Midlands giant. Origi is a household name for showing up for Liverpool in big moments. The fact remains that Origi is not a nailed-on starter for Liverpool and never has been. He isn’t the firecracker flash that Liverpool has been known for since 2014 when Origi arrived to the sum of ten million pounds. He was acquired from Lille and then loaned straight back: a usual sign on the motorway of football when a club knows a player they have interest in has potential but needs more time on the pitch to realise that potential. Origi would return to Liverpool, then loaned out again to Wolfsburg, then returned again to Merseyside over a few seasons. There was something enigmatic about Origi, but no one could really figure out what it was.
In more modern times, with all of the success of Liverpool in the Premier League & Europe, Origi has found himself as a serviceable substitute among world-class talent. Jurgen Klopp has used the striker as a pure centre forward to spell out Roberto Firmino at times, as well as an option coming off the left flank. When utilized on the left flank, Origi plays more like a wide target man of sorts, holding up the ball until more agile teammates make runs forward or behind him on the overlap. In the final third, Origi would pass the ball on to a teammate and immediately get himself into the penalty area, most times abandoning his defensive assignment. But once Origi found himself in the penalty area, he was seen more as an option to cross the ball to once inside of the penalty area due to his height. Origi only touched the ball inside of an opposition’s penalty area on 32 occasions this past season.
“Abandoning defensive assignments” and “finding more agile teammates” should have given you wartime flashbacks if you’re an Aston Villa fan reading this. That was the Achilles heel for the entirety of the 2019-2020 campaign for the Villans. Villa saw their own missteps when it came to defensive capabilities, more so before Project Restart. Villa heavily relied on the capabilities of their captain Jack Grealish, and more often than not he was the “more agile teammate” for the Villans. While the celebrations of surviving the Premier League are still fresh in the minds of most Aston Villa supporters, the supporters want for Aston Villa to bring in a “big name” remains constant as well.
What about Origi’s game would improve Aston Villa? It surely wouldn’t be his goal scoring record in the Premier League alone. This previous season, Origi scored four goals and one assist in 818 minutes of Premier League football. While you were more likely to find a unicorn at Villa Park than goals this season, should Villa really be spending vital sums of money on a forward who had the same amount of goals as Anwar El Ghazi? Since his debut in 2015 for Liverpool, Origi has scored 19 Premier League goals and made five assists in a very sparing manner. Origi also signed a “long-term contract” in July of 2019, but an official length of the contract was never disclosed. Rumours circulated that the contract was a three-year deal and that would make sense for both club and player. Not only would be Aston Villa be spending large yet again on a striker, but they would also most likely have their hand forced to buy out the remainder of his contract as well. Not exactly an ideal business decision for a club who is trying to get a foothold on being a Premier League mainstay.
One could draw upon Origi’s European competition form, but Aston Villa isn’t playing in Europe and doesn’t seem to be any time in the near future. Competitions such as the Champions League naturally bring out the best in players as they would want to shine on a big stage. And while Origi might be that “big stage” type of player, what happens when the bulb in the spotlight is broken and he’s forced to be a consistent scoring force for a team that most likely won’t be chasing silverware?
There have been massive claims from the Aston Villa fanbase that the squad of players that survived the drop back into the Championship this season lacked proper work rate and top-level pace. Origi wouldn’t be immune to those criticisms if he found himself at Villa Park, either. It’s not to say that Origi doesn’t have his strengths, but Villa should be looking at strikers with a more proven and consistent goal scoring record. Villa might not be an attractive destination in the current climate of world football, but surely Villa’s new Director Of Football Johan Lange would be able to find a more suitable and consistent striking option to assist the team in climbing higher than seventeenth on the Premier League table.