Jurgen Klopp isn’t making life easy for Harvey Elliott at Liverpool right now. The hope will be that it’s worth it in the end.
Harvey Elliott is the only Liverpool player to feature in every game this season. At the same time, he’s having a mixed season – one where we’re only really seeing the best of the 19-year-old in bursts.
But the reason why perhaps became clear this week. Elliott, after all, grabbed headlines with an extraordinary goal against Wolves in midweek.
It was ‘astonishing’, in the words of Luis Garcia on Twitter. The former Reds’ no.10 labelled Elliott ‘brilliant’ for his efforts and we felt he was Man of the Match in the FA Cup tie.
However, that game was also one of the very few times this season that Elliott has lined up as a right-sided forward. That’s his ‘natural’ position, or at least the one he’s built his reputation on. It’s where he played at Fulham and where he played during his magnificent season with Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.
It shouldn’t be a shock, then, that a return to the role offered a reminder of how good Elliott truly is. In truth, Jurgen Klopp has been making life difficult for him.
Harvey Elliott at Liverpool
Klopp continues to use Elliott but with the first-team, it’s usually as a centre-midfielder. This was where Elliott was supposed to operate last season before the injury, of course. The boss stuck with it this season, too.
But it rarely looks right. Elliott struggles to get involved in games going forward and spends most of his time drifting into spaces away from the ball. He essentially covers teammates more than anything.
Against Chelsea, Elliott did play on the wing – but from the left. It’s a role that just doesn’t suit him as he lacks the pace to play on the touchline and isn’t strong cutting in on his right foot. He mostly just passed the ball backwards as defenders pressed him.
Klopp, though, persists with these positions for Elliott and for one obvious reason – Mohamed Salah is out on the right. That’s the Egyptian’s best role and it makes little sense to take him away from there for Elliott. Thus if the teenager is to play, it’ll be in ‘new’ positions.
There’s an argument, however, that this will all prove positive. Elliott simply won’t play his best football in new positions in a struggling Liverpool side. It’s a very difficult ask from Klopp – one the 19-year-old is unlikely to thrive in.
Long-term, though, this could work wonders for Elliott. He’s learning positions in difficult times, unable to simply coast along in a thriving team. Once the Reds are clicking together better, we imagine the player will instantly improve as the game will become a lot easier for him. These tough times will harden him as a player and benefit his game.
Elliott is certainly more talented than what we’re regularly seeing – everyone can agree with that. But Klopp putting him through a difficult time right now should get the most out of that talent in the long run. We just need to be patient with him.