In his absence, there has been an overwhelming belief that Liverpool have struggled this season because of the amount of time that Daniel Sturridge has spent on the sidelines. With Brendan Rodgers parting with the Reds and Christian Benteke enduring a frustrating first campaign at Anfield, it has been easy to come to that conclusion, but it's not Sturridge himself who is the missing ingredient, it's some of the attributes that he brings to the table.
During the opening weeks of the season, when Liverpool could barely score a goal, there were suggestions that Rodgers had not spent wisely during the previous two or three windows and that he had not secured a direct replacement for either Luis Suarez or Raheem Sterling. The star duo brought pace, fire-power, creativity and imagination to a vibrant forward line that scared any defence they came up against. Their replacements - Mario Balotelli last season and Benteke last summer - did not bring the same kind of threat.
That's where Rodgers went wrong. He was unfortunate to miss out on first-choice transfer target Alexis Sanchez but he lost sight of what qualities he was trying to bring into the club. He purchased players who satisfied the desire of the supporters for a big name, rather than making additions that would fit in line with his previous philosophy using Suarez, Sterling, and Sturridge.
During the summer of 2014, Divock Origi was signed by Rodgers, but immediately sent back on loan to Lille. With the Belgian still 19 years of age, it was easy to see why his new boss wanted him to gain more experience, but couldn't he have benefited from a year's education at Anfield rather than Rodgers throwing the Suarez funds here, there and everywhere? Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but Origi was signed after helping Belgium to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. He was hardly a novice.
The following 12 months in Ligue 1 were poor to say the least. He still added nine goals in all competitions but at one stage, he was dubbed one of the worst players in the league, which undoubtedly affected his standing when he returned last summer. However, isn't this an example of how different players fit different clubs and different systems? Origi cannot be considered a success this season but he has shown potential that he can become a key player in the future, and doesn't the fact that he is now considered higher in the pecking order than Benteke indicate that Jurgen Klopp has realised that his attributes can complement his other attacking players more effectively than a player who cost the club £32m?
If both players are fit, Sturridge is always going to be preferred to Origi because he is more skilful and a more accomplished finisher, but that's not to say that Liverpool's success depends on Sturridge remaining fit. The impact of the 26-year-old is forever talked up, but in 11 games this season, he has netted in just three matches and two of the fixtures were against Aston Villa. The other was his impressive double against Southampton in the League Cup, but that's as far as his efforts go for this season. He hasn't contributed an assist either.
Origi has not been a goalscoring machine either, but Liverpool have not lost a game in which he has started. Is that a coincidence? Perhaps to some extent, but it can also be seen as an example that his pace in behind the defence and on the flanks helps free up the likes of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana to influence the game easier than when Benteke is chosen in the number-nine role.
That's the key for Liverpool. They need to find ways to allow their playmakers more space to create. Using Benteke only leaves them with scraps to feed off, but using Sturridge and Origi allows them to use their pace in behind the defence to create more freedom for the trio - whoever that may be - behind them. Some Liverpool supporters were probably sceptical about Origi replacing Sturridge against Manchester City on Wednesday night, but his movement had a hand in all three goals.
Lallana had so much space to get away a 25-yard strike into the bottom corner because Origi occupied the two centre-backs with a run in behind the defence. His impact for the second was less direct, but his movement again occupied a defender to allow James Milner to advance forward and poke the ball home. Firmino's third all started with Origi again looking to open up space behind the defence, and although a City player intervened, two passes later and the ball was in the net.
Origi probably won't score you 15 goals a season, but he occupies defenders and leaves them fearful of being exposed for pace. He can also rotate with any of the attacking midfielders to create confusion with the opposition backline. These are only little things, but they are required to get the best out of Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana. It is pretty much accepted that Sturridge won't be available for 40 games per season, but in Origi, Liverpool have someone who can be used to prevent Klopp having to tinker with his tactics in order to accommodate an out-of-form Benteke.