Earlier in the month, when it came to Liverpool and loan recalls, all the talk centred on rumours the club would pay a few million pounds to Lille to get Divock Origi in six months early. Despite a widespread belief that the deal was all but done, Lille soon rubbished the reports, stating Liverpool had not contacted them about ending Origi’s loan.
Today, Liverpool are widely reported to have recalled a player. But it’s not Origi, it’s Jordon Ibe. The implications are much the same as they would have been had Liverpool brought Origi in this month. The implications are that there will be no new attacking signings arriving in January; that rather than going to the transfer market to bolster a struggling attack, the club have recalled a promising but raw 19-year-old.
Ibe has had a solid season so far for Derby County, making 24 appearances in all competitions and scoring five goals. He has an above average scoring record for a winger, netting a goal every 227 minutes—or roughly every two and a half matches—with a respectable 16% strike rate, though whether he can recreate those kinds of numbers at the Premier League level at this stage of his career is obviously another question.
A bigger question, though, might be whether at the Premier League level he can create the chances to convert that he’s regularly gotten for Derby this season. Ibe, when he’s played well, has often looked the best player on the pitch against Championship opposition, and perhaps in part because of this he has shown a tendency to try to do it all by himself. It’s often worked, resulting in quality chances and a handful of goals.
Against Premier League opposition, there’s a good chance such an approach will lead to far fewer chances and more turnovers—as well as to frustrated teammates. It’s been the mark against Ibe when he’s played with Liverpool’s first team in pre-season over the past few years. The talent is clearly there, but the decision making so far hasn’t been, and there’s little sign his time at Derby has forced him to improve that side of his game.
Perhaps, though, despite that he has most often played as a winger, he is being brought back with an eye to playing up top as Daniel Sturridge’s backup and allowing Raheem Sterling to shift back to where he’s most comfortable, playing off and around the strikers. Ibe’s chance creation might take a hit moving up a league, but if he plays up top and can maintain a decent strike rate while others feed him the ball that may not matter.
Further taking into account Liverpool’s relative depth in the wide and attacking midfield positions, the smart money may well be on Ibe being recalled as a striker. Either way, it would seem to make the rumoured recall of Origi this month less likely. It also seems to rule out moves for any other young attackers while reaffirming that Liverpool, by choice or otherwise, are not going to be major players in the January market.