How “diamond” Harvey Elliott’s role has changed – and what comes next?

Being a pivotal part of a side competing at the very top doesn’t have to involve being a permanent fixture in the starting lineup every week, just ask Harvey Elliott.

Injuries and the general strains of another relentless campaign across the competitions has seen Jurgen Klopp turn to a total of 35 players to get himself and his players to the business end.

One man who sits towards the top of the list as far as 2023/24 appearances are concerned is Elliott, but his impact has largely been restricted to being called upon from the substitutes bench.

Only Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez have pulled on the red shirt more times so far this season, but just 22 of the 21-year-old’s 47 outings to date have come from the start.

Yet, there isn’t a Liverpool supporter with a working set of eyes who would try to argue that Elliott hasn’t been one of the most significant contributors to the side’s somewhat surprising return to the top end ahead of the schedule many had pictured.


Diamond in the rough

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 21, 2024: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott celebrates after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Luton Town FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It oughtn’t come as a shock that the manager has placed immense trust in the player his assistant, Pepijn Lijnders, once described as the Reds’ “little diamond.”

Elliott also featured 46 times during the rollercoaster that was season 2022/23, bouncing back admirably from the injury that blighted his hopes of a similar role during the previous season’s quadruple assault.

He forged himself a regular starting spot at the tender age of 18 before his career-threatening setback at Elland Road in September 2021, but he had time on his side and his unwavering spirit ensured it would not define him.

Now, we’re looking at a player who has produced as consistently as any other player at Klopp’s disposal this season, a player who has refused to let his relative lack of starting minutes affect him negatively in any way.

LUTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 5, 2023: Liverpool's substitute Harvey Elliott before the FA Premier League match between Luton Town FC and Liverpool FC at Kenilworth Road. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If you took any fan from a matchday crowd and handed them Elliott’s role in the side, that person would cherish every second on the pitch and give their heart and soul for the opportunity.

You sense that is exactly how Liverpool’s No. 19 is treating the situation. He is, after all, a boyhood fan and is living the dream of all of us, all while demonstrating the exact blend of passion and quality we crave from every senior player.

He plays like a fan would with his ability, what more could we truly ask for?


A fan in a player’s body

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 25, 2024: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott celebrates his side's winning goal in extra-time, to win the Cup, during the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0 after extra-time. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There isn’t a hint of ego despite his unquestionable talent, and one would imagine he is acutely aware that, at 21, there is still plenty of time to carve out the exact role he wants.

It is easy to forget just how young 21 is, particularly when that player has already surpassed a century of appearance for the team he grew up following.

During a season in which the youngsters around him have been asked to step up in situations they never dreamed of finding themselves in, Elliott has often looked like one of the experienced heads, which is obscene to even think about.

Somehow his qualities were brought into question this time 12 months ago, and although our memories as football fans can often be short, it is something that cannot be denied.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 9, 2023: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott celebrates after scoring the winning second goal during the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace FC and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

His physical attributes are the only lingering doubt remaining among the Liverpool faithful, but so far he has more than accounted for it with his sheer commitment to the cause and relentless volume of work.

While those who wrote him off despite his age and the mitigation that stemmed from his misfortune at Leeds, there is still one man he will be desperate to continue to capture the attention of between now and the finish line.

Liverpool put themselves firmly behind the eight ball as far as their treble ambitions were concerned when they fell to defeat at Anfield twice in four days, failing to register a goal in 180 of perhaps the most agonising minutes we have witnessed so far in this campaign.

Atalanta was Elliott’s first start in six since the humdinger against Man City a month earlier, but he was once again forced to watch the opening 82 minutes from the substitutes bench as the Reds handed the title race initiative to Arsenal (who later passed it on to Man City) with defeat at home to Crystal Palace.


What next?

2WHJ53R Liverpool's Harvey Elliott gives the thumbs up signs during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Burnley, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Klopp has typically been a manager who rewards those who step up when required, at what point can Elliott expect that privilege to be extended to him with a greater role, and would that actually be of benefit to him?

One might argue that 2,337 minutes is a perfectly sufficient return given what the midfielder has been through with his fitness and the fact he is still very much in the infancy of his career.

While a relative lack of physicality is something that continues to be levelled at him, others had previously raised questions about whether he has a natural position in Klopp’s 4-3-3 system.

A new manager will undoubtedly bring fresh ideas, and he may also opt to play with a formation that better fits Elliott’s capabilities.

His impact off the bench has been unquestionable, but that has simultaneously fed into the notion that this might be the most effective way of utilising Elliott at this point in time.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - Thursday, March 7, 2024: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott on the pitch before the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st Leg match between AC Sparta Praha and Liverpool FC at Stadion Letná. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The boss insisted back in February that his status as a super-sub won’t stick with him forever, but his ability to change games and give a new dimension to the midfield make him an ideal option when Liverpool need something a little different.

Footballers of Elliott’s quality want to start games, and his performances have almost certainly warranted more minutes than the eight he was handed against Crystal Palace (plus the frankly laughable seven minutes added on by the fourth official).

Whether that translates to more starts in the new era of the football club that will begin next season remains to be seen, but stiff competition and his own brilliance off the bench will be a factor in determining the part he will play under the new manager, whoever that may be.