November 18, 2017

Can “Die Wölfe” resurrect Divock Origi?

On Transfer Deadline Day, Liverpool sent striker Divock Origi on a season-long loan to VfL Wolfsburg. The loan signals a moment in which Klopp (although wanting to keep the young Belgian) does not see Origi in this season’s plans for the Merseyside club. I have long been a fan of Divock Origi, well, ever since I saw him play at the 2014 FIFA World Cup for Belgium. He impressed me with his pace and movement and thought his game-awareness was good for a 19-year-old (at the time).

After the tournament in Brazil, I wondered if any Premier League team would make an offer to Lille for his services. Liverpool did, but immediately loaned him back to Lille for the season. Instead, Liverpool opted to replace the out-going Luis Suarez with the conspicuous Mario Balotelli. And we all know how that worked out.

So why do I like Origi and how can he help Wolfsburg this season?

Apart from being young, pacey and able to use both feet, he is a striker eager to make a mark for himself. Some might argue against me here but I feel he has not been given the proper time to flourish at Liverpool. During his two years at the club (2015-16 and 2016-17) he did not play a lot of football. His first season also saw him trouble a lot with knee and ankle injuries.

Wolfsburg

Meanwhile, Wolfsburg don’t exactly have a bunch of reliable options upfront. Apart from Mario Gomez (30) who played 93% of striker minutes available and with that scored 16 goals (which is good for a striker of his age). Elsewhere, the other options, Borja Mayoral (19) and Victor Osimhen (17) are both young and barely played (374 and 45 minutes) Bundesliga football for Wolfsburg last season.

Manager Jonker, last season often played a 4-2-3-1 and twice changed to 4-1-4-1. For the new season, he already used his preferred 4-2-3-1 while on Match Day Two threw out a flat 5-4-1. Either way, Wolfsburg look to play with that 1 up top, very different to what Origi was used to at Liverpool.

One fact that Origi should be aware of is that Jonker and Gomez have chemistry, well, strictly football chemistry. Gomez has scored a crazy number of goals when Jonker has been manager and not just at Wolfsburg. Take it back to 2011 and in 9 games, Gomez scored 15 goals! Either way, Origi fills a current void Wolfsburg have. He nicely fits as an alternative for 1) experience of playing top-flight football and 2) age.

Last season’s woes behind him?

Wolfsburg had a tough time last season and took on three managers before finding someone who could handle the hot seat. They had to play in the end of season play-offs to avoid relegation to the 2nd division. Luckily for them, they were successful and now no doubt look toward to challenging for those European spaces again. It will take time yet Origi can certainly use the opportunity to his advantage. So how can he contribute to Wolfsburg this season? I went back 4 seasons (season before 2016 World Cup) and checked his xG numbers:

He has certainly out-performed xG by a bit each season. How does he do this? Well, Origi is not a player who will shoot at an unnecessarily heavy rate, like a Cristiano Ronaldo, or even like a more infamous name like Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC) in Major League Soccer. Origi as a striker, ranks well above average if you consider that strikers in 6 seasons in the Premier League (including players of 1000+ mins) only take 1.45 shots per 90 minutes. Converting his chances into goals also places him into the above average category of 0.11 per 90 minutes:

He gets into good positions in the box before he lets one fly. Over the past two seasons, he has taken 50-55% of his shots from in and around the penalty area. Add in the 6-yard box and it equates to 83-87%. The shot maps below, from Paul Riley (@footballfactman)I think are not up to date, but they’ll give you a general idea of where Origi likes to shoot from.

Conclusion

I am quietly confident that Origi hears my best wishes and takes the opportunity for himself. It will be interesting to see how Jonker uses Origi. Something tells me that he won’t be leading the line just yet. Probably either a wide left/right role to adjust to the new environment. With the International break currently in progress (ꙭ), we won’t see Origi play until hopefully Wolfsburg’s home game versus high flying Hannover on September 9th.

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A South African by birth, the bilingual (English and German) Alex has called many places home (South Africa, Ireland, Germany, and U.S.). In college, he studied sports performance. In his work as a data analyst (mainly football and rugby), Alex relied on this training in developing his Expected Goals model, his Goalkeepers dashboard, or other goodies on his Tableau profile. You can follow him @AlexRathke.

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