Liverpool youngster Elliott proving perfect Wijnaldum replacement

Nicholas Hughes
Harvey Elliott playing for Liverpool in a Premier League game against Burnley at Anfield in 2021

When Liverpool announced the signing of 16-year-old Harvey Elliott from Fulham in the summer of 2019, nobody really seemed to take notice.

The youngster had just made his Premier League debut for the Cottagers at the end of the 2018/19 season, becoming the youngest player in the league’s history at 16 years and 30 days old.

After impressing in the Under 23’s, Elliott earned himself two substitute appearances for the Reds before excelling on loan at Blackburn Rovers in the Championship last season, scoring seven goals and providing 11 assists.

With Georginio Wijnaldum gone and many of Liverpool’s midfielders returning from international tournaments, Elliott has seized his opportunity in pre-season and is reaping the rewards at the beginning of the campaign.

As an 18-year-old, what has been most impressive has been his engine, work rate and maturity in midfield. He has been combative defensively, intelligent in his positioning and movement all while exuding quality on the ball.

In the win against Burnley, Elliott was unfortunate to have an assist chalked off by VAR, had an important hand in Liverpool’s second goal and played two key passes, according to Instat.

Jurgen Klopp has been impressed by Elliott’s presence throughout pre-season and is enjoying his continued output in the early part of the season.

“Harvey shows up like a proper Liverpool player,” he said after that victory.

“Yes, he is 18 years old; yes, there is still a lot to come. That’s all true, but there is already a lot there and I am really happy about that.”

Harvey Elliott his already fitting into the Liverpool line-up

Liverpool’s first-choice midfield trio in recent years has seen Jordan Henderson play to the right of Fabinho, forming a superb connection with Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold down that flank, with Wijnaldum playing the same role on the left.

But this has changed with Elliott’s introduction. His natural tendency to drift onto the right-wing has added dynamism to Liverpool’s approach, with Salah given the freedom to find the ball in more central areas closer to goal.

By stretching the opposition midfield, Elliott has seen himself become heavily involved in Liverpool’s build-up play, with 90 passes against Chelsea at the weekend and 60 against Burnley.

On his defensive ability, he had nine interceptions against Chelsea compared to just three each from Fabinho and Henderson, highlighting his all-action display.

Wijnaldum’s role in the side was to break up play, retain and recycle possession, and Elliott did all that and more in a massive game against the Blues, despite his inexperience.

Klopp has fielded multiple questions on the midfield options at his disposal, with many questioning the club’s inactivity in the transfer market.

But the German knows he has everything he needs at his disposal already, and with Elliott’s quality in both the immediate and long-term, he is saving the club millions by stepping into Wijnaldum’s place.