Jurgen Klopp could unleash Borussia Dortmund’s plan with Liverpool teenager key

The exquisite touch to cushion the sinking ball was followed by a delicate whistle and an emphatic blow that nearly ripped the Kop-end goal net.

This was, of course, how Harvey Elliott announced his return from a six-month nightmare between September 2021 and February 2022.

Since his move to Liverpool in the summer of 2019, it’s fair to say that Elliott’s time at the club has been nothing short of a whirlwind.

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During the 2019/20 campaign, his first for Liverpool, the midfielder made his Premier League debut in January against Sheffield United, just days before playing a starring role in Liverpool’s remarkable 1-0 third-round victory. the FA Cup over Everton. .

And by the time the curtain closed on the covid-affected season, the then 17-year-old had a Premier League winner’s medal around his neck.

It was quite a preface to senior football for Elliott, who only had a handful of senior games under his belt as he spent most of his first year on Merseyside playing for the club’s under-23 team.

The dazzling aptitude on offer during his handful of cameos saw Elliott take his first serious steps into the senior game during an impressive 2020/21 loan campaign at Blackburn Rovers, which exponentially catapulted the teenager’s stock and gave J urgen Klopp a premature dilemma. before the new season.

Keep the then 18-year-old in Kirkby and closely monitor his development or send him on a more progressive loan in a bid to increase his minutes?

As it happened, Elliott’s early promise of the 2021/22 season came to a brutal halt during his infancy when he was at the end of a strong challenge from Leeds’ Pascal Struijk – the dislocated ankle he suffered would keep him out of action for six months. .

And following the recent clamor on social media for newly appointed sporting director Julian Ward to pursue a deal to bring another midfielder to Anfield this summer, it seems Elliott’s initial impact during the opening stages of last season has been somewhat forgotten. .

The immense impression he made on the first-team managers during pre-season trips to Austria and France was revealed when he was given the go-ahead ahead of Thiago Alcantara for Chelsea’s visit to Anfield last August. Klopp had chosen to reward the youngster for his great performance against Burnley, on the right side of a midfield three, the previous week.

It was in midfield against the Clarets that he linked up superbly with Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane, displaying tactical understanding beyond his years, to help orchestrate a remarkable second goal of the afternoon when silk saw them. Liverpool’s early season. rise to the top of the Premier League.

It was a positional change that not many would have foreseen for Elliott just months after becoming Rovers’ scoring winger in the Championship, but desperate to shoehorn his way into Klopp’s side, Elliott seized any opportunity he could and even sought advice for Mohammed. Salah during a conversation in the canteen.

At the end of his talk, Salah had advised the young man to reduce the amount of bread he eats if he really wanted to become a committed athlete. While it may seem like the pairing is all tongue and cheek, Elliott’s mindset, at such a tender age, of becoming the best version of himself is what was instrumental in his excellent early season form last season.

“Yesterday, I also heard a story that Mo and Harvey Elliott were sitting in the dining room together,” Lijnders said. “Harvey had bread and fruit on his plate and Mo asked him how many slices of bread he had.” she already had that day.

“Said one and Mo told him to just eat the fruit! Harvey told me, ‘I’m always learning from these guys!’

Those beliefs about the 19-year-old’s special mindset were echoed by his manager Klopp following his extraordinary return in February: “Probably his biggest talent is how mentally prepared he is for everything there is,” Klopp told Liverpoolfc. . .com. He is a kid, yes, but not so much on the pitch.”

Truth be told, the second half of the season did not go quite as Elliott would have imagined after his stellar comeback at Anfield in February. There was a start at the San Siro in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 and 41 minutes in the League Cup final against Chelsea, but that’s as good as it got for the youngster, as which was left chewing. the little far.

Just two Premier League starts since returning to form would have erroneously indicated to supporters that Elliott had begun to fall down the pecking order at Anfield, having been overlooked numerous times during Liverpool’s quest for a quadruple. without precedents.

However, following Sadio Mane’s confirmed departure to Bayern Munich earlier this week, Elliott has a chance to firmly claim a starring role in Liverpool’s next tactical evolution over the coming season.

The signing of Darwin Nunez has indicated that Klopp may be willing to abandon his famous 4-3-3 style of play, which has served him and his players exceptionally well over a four-year period, in favor of a more aggressive attacking approach. conventional as they seek to recapture the Premier League title from Manchester City.

The German’s unwavering loyalty to a 4-2-3-1 formation has already been verified after he stormed the Bundesliga with his all-encompassing Borussia Dortmund and ousted Bayern Munich not once, but twice 10 years ago.

But any decision to rekindle a love affair with that formation at Anfield will no doubt be influenced by Elliott’s prominent versatility: having played right, midfield and left during his time in senior football thus far, he has all the tools to help Liverpool transition. in a new era. Klopp is expected to have an endless list of positions available for the youngster in the upcoming campaign, which will no doubt help transition him to a potential 4-2-3-1.

Despite playing just 13 times in all competitions last season, only Alexander-Arnold averaged more passes into the opposition’s 18-yard box per 90 than Elliott’s 2.44. Furthermore, no attacking player in the Liverpool squad averaged more shot creation actions per 90 than the 4.90 achieved by the Reds’ number 67, with Luis Diaz ranking close behind at 4.56.

Evidently secured in possession in and around the final third, Elliott has a clear awareness and command to occupy dangerous half-spaces between the lines, similar to Phillippe Coutinho during his Liverpool days, which could point to his best long-term position. at Anfield. , playing with the striker in Klopp’s access system.

Having said that, Klopp could realistically end up employing Elliott in as many as five positions in a catalog of formations next season as a result of the 19-year-old showing he can be trusted on the tactical side of the game, which was amped up. for his immense turnover in the build-up to Sadio Mane’s goal against Burnley last August.

And while Elliott is perhaps in a frustrating and uncertain situation, like Curtis Jones, in which he has yet to stamp his authority on a permanent position on the Reds team, right now that could be his greatest asset before the end of this summer. tactical revamp.

One thing is certain, however: wherever Elliott finds himself over the course of the 2022/23 season, if he plays his cards right, he could become one of Klopp’s key components in Liverpool’s new quest for sustained glory.

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