Not for the first time this season, Harvey Elliott was a difference-maker for Liverpool off of the bench.
Though he was only credited with one assist, he set up Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez to help Liverpool to a 3-1 win over Vincent Kompany’s team. The three points lifted Jurgen Klopp’s side back into top spot following Manchester City’s brief spell leading the way after their win over Everton in the early kick-off.
The Liverpool No. 19 has definitely been robbed of an assist. Just six minutes after coming on, his pass across goal took a deflection off of Maxime Esteve before Diaz cleverly got his head to the ball to divert it past James Trafford. It is quite bizarre that a simple one-yard pass prior to a 30-yard screamer can earn you an assist but you aren’t credited with an assist if a pass takes a small deflection before finding a teammate. Still, Elliott finished the game with a recognised goal involvement after his delicate cross into the area was nodded in by Darwin.
Perhaps surprisingly, it was just his second assist of the Premier League campaign for the former Fulham youngster. Elliott has had something of a complicated season.
Liverpool revamped their midfield in the summer bringing in Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch. Klopp has been bedding in his new signings and this has definitely had an impact on Elliott. For example, last term, the versatile midfielder had 18 starts in the English top-flight and finished with 1,615 minutes. So far this season, he’s started just three matches in the Premier League and racked up 561 minutes.
There are parallels between Elliott’s 2023/24 campaign and Curtis Jones’ 2021/22 season for Liverpool. Many had expected Jones to kick on following an impressive 2020/21 showing but the emergence of Elliott coupled with Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thiago all staying fit meant the No. 17 had his playing time significantly reduced.
Likewise, there had been a feeling that the departures of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain would free up space for Elliott. Instead, it freed up space for new arrivals and forced the England Under-21 international into more of a squad-player role.
Elliott has been more deserving than others who have been given opportunities, but Klopp has had to find ways to allow new signings to acclimatise to their new surroundings. And he’s only been able to do that because he knows the No. 19 is on the bench and ready to come on to play his part if required.
He’s done just that on countless occasions this term. One thing that is going under the radar is that Elliott has now matched his 2022/23 numbers. Unless something goes terribly wrong from now until the end of the campaign, this is going to be his most productive season in the English top-flight. What makes this even more impressive is that he’s done this while largely being given a bit-part role.
Against Burnley, Klopp turned to him while shuffling his team around. Jones dropped into play right-back and Elliott was tasked with playing on the right-side of midfield. The No. 19 was given the responsibility of supporting the makeshift full-back.
The German tactician had options on the bench too. He could’ve used Ryan Gravenberch or Cody Gakpo there but instead opted for Elliott.
His trust was repaid.
Elliott finished the game with an 85% pass success rate, helping Liverpool control things with the ball, and he won 100% of his tackles.
Earlier in the season, the left-footed maestro was introduced against Crystal Palace and he finished that game with a 100% pass success rate while also netting the winning goal. These two cameos alone have helped Liverpool pick up six points.
Obviously, he wants to be starting games. He probably deserves to be starting games too if we’re being honest. He said as much in his post-match interview on Saturday.
“I want to be starting and that’s my goal,” he told LFCTV after Saturday’s win. “I want to get back in the team and kind of cement my spot. But I’m just more than happy getting on the pitch first and foremost, whether it’s off the bench or starting, I’m just happy to put the shirt on and go out and play, especially at Anfield.
“It’s down to me to try to make a difference; that’s why I’m coming on, that’s kind of my role in the team, that’s why I’m here [after the win].”
Right now though he’s an unbelievable super-sub for the Reds. If his career follows the same path as Jones’, he could well soon be a key player for the starting XI.
That’ll likely depend on the new manager, but he’s certainly doing enough to make an impression.