Is Harvey Elliott the solution to Liverpool’s midfield crisis?

Rahul Madhavan
By Rahul Madhavan
9 Min Read
Harvey-Eliott-Liverpool-Contract-Analysis

Picture a child supporting Liverpool dreaming of playing in Anfield in front of a rising stadium and the iconic Kop end. Imagine that boyhood fan who wished he could score in front of that atmosphere and celebrate in style. Well, that has been 19-year-old Harvey Elliott’s aspiration, and he’s certainly living it now.

Ahead of the gameweek 2 of the 2022/23 Premier League season, Harvey Elliott has also signed a new contract with the Reds, thanks to his incredible potential.

Things, however, were not straightforward as he struggled with a horrific injury against Leeds United last season. Harvey Elliott was carried on a stretcher because of Pascal Struijk’s poor tackle, just as he was just settling into Jurgen Klopp’s plans.

As a result, he was out for several months and only returned to the first team picture in February this year. In what looked like a breakthrough season, Elliott only played 6 Premier League games for the first team during the 2021/22 season. Nevertheless, he bounced back impressively and once again earned plaudits from the Liverpool faithful as he enjoyed a fruitful preseason.

And with the team’s current midfield injury issues, he may get another chance to cement his position in the heart of the team. Despite his inexperience, the narrative may ultimately go in his favor as he started the season against Fulham emphatically. Hence, here is a case of why Harvey Elliott could solve Jurgen Klopp’s problems in midfield.

Harvey Elliott’s connection with Alexander-Arnold & Mohamed Salah

The game against Fulham was an eye-opener for Jurgen Klopp and his staff, as Liverpool struggled for many parts of the match. Of course, the entry of Darwin Núñez changed the game, and he rightly deserved the plaudits. However, Klopp’s decision to bring in Elliott also had a crucial part in changing the Merseyside team’s fortunes.

Trent and in particular Mohamed Salah were having a quiet game until the former Fulham man stepped onto the pitch. Elliott’s presence, combined with Liverpool’s need for a goal, prompted both of Liverpool’s star men to step up a gear and turn the game around.

For their first goal, it was the young Englishman’s stunning first-time pass that broke the Cottagers’ resistance and resulted in Nunez’s goal. Elliott is known for his excellent awareness, and he certainly showed it this time.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harvey Elliott, and Mo Salah switching positions frequently also made things difficult for the Fulham defence. Additionally, Elliott’s presence allows Liverpool’s right back to stray inside and into the halfspaces, where he eventually excels. The three have remarkable synchronicity and understanding, which surely confounds the opposition.

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Here is another example that shows the connection between the three and Elliott’s intelligent positioning to find spaces. Trent picks out a pass to the midfielder in the box.

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Following this, Mohamed Salah makes a dart into the box, which takes away the Fulham defender and allows Harvey Elliott to cut inside onto his favoured left foot. From this position, he can either have a shot himself or lay a pass to his teammate.

Harvey-elliot-cutting-inside-vs-fulham

This relationship, however, was established even last season. They tend to form triangles, with Salah usually in the wide areas and either Elliott or Trent Arnold occupying the halfspaces. When the latter occupies the halfspace, Elliott could also drift out wide with Salah making runs in behind the defence as seen in Sadio Mane’s goal vs Burnley last season.

One reason all the three look comfortable rotating positions is because of their ability to excel in both the half-space and wide areas combined with their understanding of the game. While Salah and Trent are quite the masters of their trade, Elliott’s grasp with little experience is undoubtedly brilliant.

Mo Salah – Harvey Elliot combination

It is fair to say that Mohamed Salah looks much more involved in the game when Elliott plays. Despite Elliott’s lack of first-team minutes, the Egyptian looks comfortable engaging with him with either a give and go or laying the ball to him while being doubled up on the wing.

This could stem from the fact that the 19-year-old was a winger in his early days. He stood out playing as a wide man during his loan spell at Blackburn Rovers during the 2020/21 season. He is, however, far a more inverted winger who likes to drift inside to allow the fullback wide.

For Liverpool, Klopp sees him as a midfielder since he likes to occupy the half spaces when Salah is stretching the pitch. Here is one example against Chelsea in terms of how the Salah – Elliott dynamism works.

Receiving the ball in the halfspaces, he lays it off to Salah to make an overlapping run, which allows last season’s Premier League Golden Boot winner to cut inside and have a go at the defender. This time, however, he uses Elliott as an option for a pass.

This was showcased against Fulham as well. Elliott witnesses Salah is stranded against the fullback so decides to make a dart out wide, which lets the winger cut inside and use his overlap.

Mo-Salah-Harvey-Elliott-linkup-vs-Fulham

Mohamed-Salah-Harvey-Elliott-combination-vs-Fulham

How Liverpool could lineup with Harvey Elliott?

Harvey Elliott is seen as a right-sided central midfielder by Klopp due to his excellent technique on the ball and ability in tight spaces. The youngster has also regularly shown his quality in the central areas. With Thiago’s injury and Keita’s lack of fitness, Henderson could be moved to the left side to accommodate the Englishman on the right.

Furthermore, as stated above, his connection with Mo Salah and Alexander-Arnold is another reason for the German manager to use Elliott on the right side. At the same time, Klopp could also move to a 4-2-3-1 with Fabinho and Henderson playing as a double pivot. That leaves the number 10 role for either Elliott, Fabio Carvalho, or even Roberto Firmino.

Elliot’s versatile nature will be of great essence for Klopp if he plans to use this formation. As a number 10, he could drift out wide or stay between the lines to receive the ball. He is arguably more comfortable performing this role than the other two mentioned.

With that being said, it is important to remember that Elliott is still young and raw. Klopp will look to integrate him into the first team slowly rather than playing him in 40+ games this season. At the tender age of 19, he has however shown outstanding commitment to Liverpool.

He is undoubtedly ambitious and is heading in the right direction. Moreover, Liverpool’s plans to sign a midfielder seem to stall, so this could prove to be a golden opportunity for Harvey Elliott to impress Klopp once again and secure his status with the first team.

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