The once sedate post-match reaction to any Liverpool game now resembles a feeding frenzy at the zoo in the social media era.
Don your scuba gear and take a dive into the murky waters of Twitter and Facebook after a draw or defeat at your peril.
A mistimed tackle and [insert full-back here] ‘can’t defend for his life’. A shot blazed wide and forward number five is a ‘total waste of money’. Worse yet, player X in a momentary lapse of concentration leaves a runner untracked and ‘looks like he can’t be bothered’.
Sure, we might all think these things in the heat of battle, but do we actually believe them? More importantly, is there merit to the vast swathes of public critique players now receive?
Two Liverpool stars in particular have come in for scathing criticism in recent times – Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino.
The attacking duo once again underwhelmed as Liverpool drew in tepid fashion with Midtjylland in midweek.
Combined, the duo have notched four goals and two assists across 19 matches in all competitions this season.
Poor by any stretch of the imagination. But if you scratch beneath the surface, is there more than meets the eye? Or is the fierce criticism they have received entirely justified?
@LFCUncensored is on hand to investigate…
The Belgian has provided one goal and one assist from 312 minutes of action this season. It is important to note, however, that both contributions came in the 7-2 EFL Cup victory over Lincoln City.
The Imps may be flying high in League One, but if you’re hoping to stave off criticism, citing goals and assists against third tier opposition will do little to satisfy the baying mob.
Regardess, three-and-a-half games worth of action shouldn’t be enough to draw conclusions on anything in football. If you did, you’d come to some strange judgements about Lionel Messi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The pair have one and zero goal contributions in their last 312 minutes of play respectively.
With such a small sample size to analyse, last season’s numbers provide greater scope to make deductions.
Origi accrued 10 goals and assists combined from 1,426 minutes of gametime. That equates to 0.63 attacking returns per 90 minutes.
To put that into perspective, Sadio Mane led the way at Liverpool with 0.82 goals and assists per 90m, followed by Mohamed Salah (0.79). Roberto Firmino’s mark of 0.57 attacking returns per 90m was, in fact, lower than Origi’s.
The Brazilian brings a LOT more to the team than raw numbers, but donning your honesty cap for one second, does Origi really deserve the brow beating he keeps receiving with such stellar recent statistics in his locker? And lest we forget, the fabled front three had the unmistakeable advantage of rhythm and form through being virtually guaranteed to start each week.
Origi’s 1,426 minutes of play came across a whopping 42 appearances. Form and rhythm don’t exist when you average just north of 30 minutes of competitive football once a week.
Words like ‘steal’ and ‘bargain’ were tossed around when the £7.25m Japanese forward was signed from RB Salzburg in January.
The step-up from Austrian top flight to the Premier League was always going to be difficult, but hopes were high after a slew of impressive performances in the Champions League prior to his arrival.
Minamino has racked up three goals and one assist from 1,036 minutes of action in his 11 months with Liverpool.
On the surface, nothing to write home about. But three of those four contributions came against Lincoln City and we suspect even his most vocal supporters wouldn’t cite those contributions when defending his slow start on Merseyside. Calculating a per 90m statistic for his attacking returns against teams not from Lincolnshire is clearly not necessary here.
There’s no other way of looking at it, the 25-year-old has been a disappointment.
But – and it’s a big but – are we expecting too much from what are essentially Liverpool’s sixth and seventh choice forwards?
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri (when fit!) are all comfortably ahead of the much-maligned duo.
Should Nathaniel Phillips be expected to be an impregnable brick wall in defence as our sixth-choice centre-half?
Sure, the 23-year-old didn’t come with a price tag, but it’s not as if Origi and Minamino were bank breakers.
You could buy the duo four times over and still have change left for the price of one Nicolas Pepe – a player Liverpool were heavily linked with but thankfully dodged a bullet on.
Perspective is the key word here, especially when you look at what reserve forward options the other members of the traditional ‘top six’ are capable of fielding…
7 best attacking options for the ‘top six’ – 2020/21
Subjectivity is inevitable, but the individual rankings of the first five are unimportant. What matters is options six and seven and the underlying meaning prevails even with your own slightly different order.
(Sixth and seventh choice forwards are highlighted in bold)
Liverpool – Salah, Mane, Firmino, Jota, Shaqiri… Origi, Minamino
Man City – Aguero, Sterling, Mahrez, Jesus, Torres… B. Silva, Delap
Chelsea – Werner, Pulisic, Ziyech, Abraham, Giroud… Havertz, Hudson-Odoi
Man Utd – Rashford, Martial, Cavani, Greenwood, Mata… Ighalo, James
Tottenham – Kane, Son, Bale, Bergwijn, Moura… Vinicius, Lamela
Arsenal – Aubameyang, Lacazette, Willian, Pepe, Martinelli… Nketiah, Nelson
When you glance across the bolded names Origi and Minamino are in direct competition with, which pairing would you trade for in a heartbeat?
Bernardo Silva might top Ferran Torres in most people’s mind, but the Portuguese playmaker has only sparingly been deployed in the front line this year, hence his sixth position. He is superior to both Origi and Minamino, but there’s a reason why Man City’s net spend (£564.71m) over the last five years is nearly half a billion pounds more than Liverpool’s (£108.07m).
Pep Guardiola can afford to have £43.5m players as an emergency back-up to the forwards. Jurgen Klopp does not share that same luxury.
Kai Havertz falls into the same category as Silva. The German is more than capable of mixing it up at the top end of the pitch as he so frequently did with Bayer Leverkusen. But Frank Lampard has made use of his services in the front line on just three occasions this season, hence his ranking behind lesser talented players like Abraham and Giroud as realistic forward options.
Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi look mighty appealing. A theoretical double trade in that regard would be Michael Edwards’ finest work yet. But the rest? No thanks.
There are no words in the English language that could convince us to swap Origi or Minamino for Daniel James.
So… is the criticism justified?
In a word, no.
There are no secrets to Origi and Minamino. What you see is what you get.
They’re inexpensive reserve attackers providing somewhat adequate back-up to a forward line that is the envy of Europe.
Sure, it’d be grand if Origi looked a little more interested at times and it’s be just swell if Minamino provided a tangible contribution more than once a year. But if you’re expecting them to play like Mane and Salah when Mane and Salah aren’t playing, the only person you’re fooling is yourself.
Origi and Minamino? They’re good enough for Klopp and that’s good enough for us.