Why Harvey Elliott might be a better fit in midfield
Everyone just assumed Harvey Elliott would be the long-term replacement for Mohamed Salah. I imagine it is because both are left-footed and both are better when they’re allowed to cut inside from the right.
However, Elliott impressed in midfield during a pre-season friendly, with Salah deployed in his usual right-wing role. Klopp praised the youngster afterwards when speaking to LFCTV: “I don’t think Harvey had ever played that position for us, but he looked good.”
What if Elliott is the man to succeed Xherdan Shaqiri in the squad? In terms of profile, they’re more similar than Elliott is to Salah.
I penned a piece a few months back now looking at how he’d performed while on loan with Blackburn. Something I noticed early on was how he’d drop for the ball and how he liked to pick pockets of space up in the middle third. He didn’t move or operate as a modern-day wide-forward. Elliott rarely looked to make runs in behind, he wasn’t looking to play on the shoulder of the defender and he didn’t take to make those incisive runs from outside to in that the likes of Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota make.
Instead, he wanted the ball to feet. He wanted to be able to pick a pass and, more often than not, he did.
Elliott isn’t a final phase player in the sense he’s not desperate to score goals. He’s more of a Jack Grealish as in he’s happy to be the creator and that is reflected in his numbers. It’s one of the reasons why, when writing the feature, I said I think his future currently is more of a midfield player or as a traditional No10.
This would well change if Klopp decides to switch up his system and goals are no longer a big part of a wide forward’s role. Furthermore, this isn’t to suggest that Elliott can’t add that ruthless edge to his game with experience. Just that right now, he’s more Shaqiri than Salah. And that is ok. There’s a place in this quad for that, even more so if the Swiss bulldozer finally departs as expected.
It’s also why I think Liverpool are still in the market for an attacker.
Both James Pearce and Neil Jones have made comments recently that suggests the Reds want a midfielder and an attacker this summer.
Jones actually published an article recently focusing on Elliott. He said that the feeling around Elliott is very much when he breaks into the first-team, not if.
The feature also went on to say that staff have noticed a difference in the former Fulham youngster this summer. He returned to pre-season training earlier than many of his colleagues, and he looks leaner, fitter and sharper than this time last year.
Having seen glimpses of what could be during that friendly, I want to see more. Elliott can’t play as a box-to-box midfielder in every game, obviously. But in some games, he could be the skeleton key required to unlock teams.