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Harvey Elliott holds key to Liverpool transfer plan as Jurgen Klopp faces final decision



Harvey Elliott holds key to Liverpool transfer plan as Jurgen Klopp faces final decision

Jurgen Klopp is a ‘big fan’ of an apparent Liverpool transfer target. The talent is undeniable, but first we have to settle a question about Harvey Elliott.

At this stage of the season, no one would expect him to have featured in every game. Liverpool have competed on four fronts and the Community Shield, playing 40 games in total.

However, if Liverpool fans were to guess at the start of the campaign who would be ubiquitous at the end of March, some stock market names would certainly emerge. Since moving to Anfield, Virgil van Dijk has been an almost automatic choice for Jurgen Klopp whenever he’s been available. Over the years, Mohamed Salah has been almost incredibly durable. Alisson would be a potential challenger in goal, although Caoimhín Kelleher is now a fixture as a League Cup goalkeeper.

We would have to go through the list of guesses a bit before we get to Harvey Elliott. The teenager is now more than just a hugely exciting prospect – he’s an excellent technician himself. That said, even the player himself is certainly amazed by how much he has played.

It’s not just his tender age that surprises him. The bigger trivia is that Elliott has played so much, although Klopp still doesn’t seem to have a clear understanding of where the teenager fits into Liverpool’s long-term plan.

For most of this season, Klopp has played the role of ‘project midfielder’, picking Elliott as one of three centre-backs for him. He has improved into his role, with a significantly superior defensive performance at the start of the season. In an attacking sense, he brings something unique and creative to a unit that operated primarily under German rule.

But there’s no denying that Klopp’s decision was driven by necessity. His go-to midfielder has deflated considerably this season, meaning any sort of energy and vigor has been gratefully embraced. Longer term, he might still want a more secure defensive presence.

There were hints of this from time to time. Despite the issues in midfield, Elliott found himself on the right wing at times, with Salah becoming more of a central striker. Meanwhile, there have been periods in games where Klopp has been more inclined to turn to the youngster from the bench rather than from the start, usually at times when Liverpool have been eyeing their most vulnerable defence.

As his loan spell at Blackburn no doubt showed, Elliott is an attacking midfielder overall. A great talent, Fábio Carvalho, can also be thrown in the same boat. To a lesser extent, Curtis Jones can even claim to belong to this group as well. And that creates a big problem when Liverpool’s long-standing tactical setup doesn’t support such a role.

Klopp then has to make a decision. Will he tear up his winning model? While he may have been largely used to Anfield, he did a 4-2-3-1 formation at Borussia Dortmund, so he’s not entirely inflexible. On the other hand, Liverpool have won all the major trophies in recent years, so they won’t change a winning formula lightly. It’s not hard to see why Klopp rates Wirtz from a purely talent perspective. He’s a creative phenomenon – his involvement this season has been limited by a serious injury from which he has recovered well so far, but his 2021/22 numbers tell the whole story.

The Leverkusen wonderkid was in the 98th percentile of attacking midfielders and wingers in the Bundesliga for assists, expected assists and shots (FBref). Progressive passes, progressive carries and successful catches were also all in elite territory. In addition to the character recovering from his long hiatus, he excels exceptionally well. But his defensive work is pretty light. Better than Elliott, but not exactly typical of a Klopp midfielder, or even a contender to become the heir to Roberto Firmino slightly further up the pitch.

So Klopp has to figure out what he’s doing with his existing directors before deciding what to do with Wirtz. If Liverpool do not play regularly under a number 10 for the foreseeable future, the club will have to sit out this transfer fixture. If the plan calls for a tactical reshuffle, the German would be an extremely exciting part and someone who would give Elliott a rare day off.