Harvey Elliott has made a major impact since joining Blackburn on loan in January, with the 17-year-old taking a key role and becoming a “go-to man” at Ewood Park.
The decision to send Elliott out on loan came late in the summer, with the Reds only courting offers for their versatile forward in the final days of the transfer window.
With Xherdan Shaqiri staying at Anfield, it was deemed beneficial for Elliott to gain experience elsewhere, and Blackburn were chosen as the ideal destination for Liverpool’s No. 67.
Three months into his time at Ewood Park and the youngster has turned heads on a regular basis, even leading to calls of a recall to Merseyside in January.
But how is Elliott faring at Blackburn, beyond the four goals and six assists he has tallied?
To get the inside view of Elliott’s time at Blackburn so far, This Is Anfield spoke to Lancashire Telegraph journalist Rich Sharpe (@richsharpe89).
Firstly, what role has Elliott played for Blackburn so far?
Rovers have been pretty exclusively 4-3-3 this season, a change from their previous 4-2-3-1 which has had quite a lot to do with the injury to Bradley Dack.
Tony Mowbray isn’t one for throwing new signings in straight away, but there was no such ploy with Elliott, in after just two days of training to take up his spot on the right wing.
There have been times when he’s dropped into the right of the midfield three, but that has been when Rovers have either been in complete control, or they have been chasing the game.
He’s not had quite the same effect there, as he’s ended up drifting into a similar role as to where he would be playing were he on the right wing.
There have been two games where he’s played some part as a false nine – something Rovers have tried in the past without great success – and that didn’t really work, not because of Elliott, but because it took top scorer Adam Armstrong out of the areas where he can be most dangerous.
What has stood out most about Elliott? And where has he struggled?
His weight of pass is exceptional, as good as I’ve seen from a young player.
Armstrong in particular is able to make a run in behind knowing more often than not he won’t have to break stride to get on the end of it. That was evident from his very first game against Watford.
From interviewing him, he seems incredibly switched on for someone of his age, very driven, determined, but has bought into the team environment as well.
I did wonder whether he would be someone who would just turn it on when the going was good, but he’s dug them out of a number of holes and become something of a go-to man, including his equalising goals against Rotherham United and Norwich City.
He’s developed a good relationship with right-back Ryan Nyambe down the flank and had plenty of joy down that route.
I think the FA Cup weekend came at a good time because there have been signs lately that he’s started to flag a little, no surprise given the amount of minutes that he’s played (before being substituted against Huddersfield on December 29 no one had played more since his signing).
He’s looked robust though, and the manager has commented on how much he just wants to keep playing and training, so no worries about his ability to cope with the physicality of the division.
Do you expect him to be as important in the second half of the season?
I think there’s a chance we may see more of a 4-2-2-2 in the second half of the season when Dack is fully up to speed, with Dack and Elliott operating behind two more advanced strikers.
Dack is undoubtedly the star man, and they’ve missed him, but he will love having someone with the technical ability of Elliott to work with, and the hope would be that they can bounce off each other.
I don’t think there’s any denying that he won’t have a big part to play in the second half of the season.
Can you see Elliott fitting in at Liverpool next season?
The gap between the Championship and Premier League, for me, only seems to be getting bigger.
The fact the three relegated sides have started so strongly in the Championship and, Leeds apart, the three promoted sides have tended to struggle, I do think there’s a big jump between the two.
He’s had the experience of playing games regularly at such a young age, so it’s a difficult next step for him.
All the indications were that there was no plan initially to loan him out before Rovers’ approach, and Liverpool will likely feel that simply being around the first-team setup is as good for his development as playing under-23s football, a step he seems to have missed out.
I really hope there’s not a push for too much too soon, you only have to see the reaction to any goal, assist, trick he does at Rovers and within seconds it’s getting thousands of views.
He doesn’t strike me as someone who will get carried away with that, but it is an important next step.
I think the best thing would be for Liverpool to keep him around the first-team setup, give him the odd cup game here and there.
But if they want to loan him again, we’d certainly have him back!
And finally, have you heard anything about that recall clause?!
From what I understand, there is no recall clause and he’ll be seeing out the season at Ewood.
Many thanks to Rich Sharpe for his insight into Elliott’s time at Blackburn so far. Follow Rich on Twitter @richsharpe89.