Wonderkids: Harvey Elliott
Harvey Elliott, a very skilled attacking midfielder, is impressing in his loan spell with Blackburn, where he continues to hone his talents as part of a process that will lead him back to his parent club Liverpool, sooner or later. According to our model, in 12 months he should be ready for a chance in the Premier League, although a mid-table side would be more suitable initially. His best quality is undoubtedly his vision, which allows him to deliver spectacular and effective through balls and a continuous flow of assists.
Bio and playing style
Debut with Fulham, but LFC came soon after
Harvey Scott Elliott was born on the 4th of April 2003 in Chertsey, Surrey, approximately 29km southwest of central London.
Elliott started playing football at a very early age and immediately showed great skill and decision-making at Fulham FC’s academy, playing with older players at most levels and still being one of the best players on the pitch. This led Fulham to realise that they had an exceptional talent on their hands. He went on to break numerous records: the youngest player in the EFL cup (at 15 and 174 days); the youngest player to play in the Premier League (at 16 years and 30 days); and the youngest player to appear for Fulham.
In July 2019 he signed on a free transfer for Liverpool. He is currently on loan at Blackburn.
Third-best ‘Vision’ among Under-20’s
Elliott is 170cm tall and weighs 67kg for a BMI of 23.18. He shows good agility and speed, although he tends to get away from opponents using skill rather than pace.
What makes Elliott really stand out as a player, especially for his age, is his creativity. He is capable of playing killer through-balls for his teammates, of which he has completed 8 (0.49 P90) which is the most in the Championship (the second-placed has 5). He is also exceptional using the outside of his foot.
Elliott has managed 0.36 Assists P90 (out of 0.24 xA) in his senior career, which ranks him 3rd behind Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi for U-20s. These numbers, coupled with 2.25 chances created P90, give him a remarkable 58 Vision Index Score and make him the second-best assist provider in the Championship with 6, at the time of writing.
Elliott likes to receive the ball in wide areas from where he can initiate one-on-one take-ons or play quick one-twos with his teammates in order to develop attacks. His heavy involvement in his team’s play is highlighted by the number of passes he makes: 36.6 in the opposition half P90 (well above the role average of 24.6) with an above-average 73.3% completion rate. His playmaking abilities are also highlighted by his long-ball stats: he attempts 5.43 P90 which is more than double the average for his position, and his success rate of 63.3% is also significantly above average.
Even though he prefers link-up play, he is a talented dribbler with great flair and completes 1.3 dribbles P90 with a 59.5% success rate.
Elliot’s shot selection is not the most judicial (xG per shot of 0.085), although this is perhaps justified by his shooting skills (see video below). In any case, Elliott doesn’t take a high volume of shots (1.58 per 90 minutes), but when he does he shows good accuracy (42.3%) and conversion rates (15.4%), resulting in a clear outperformance of xG (4 goals vs a 2.13 xG this season).
Playing as an inverted winger on the right
At Blackburn, Elliott usually plays as a right winger in a 4-3-3 system in which he can receive the ball wide and then converge on his stronger left foot towards the centre to link up play, create chances for his teammates or take shots. He is often trusted with the ball and can also drop deep to help the midfield in possession. His long-passing prowess also means that he can effectively switch play when one side is overloaded. Essentially, he acts as an advanced playmaker with the additional threat of his dribbling and shooting skills.
Elliott has also played as an attacking midfielder or a left winger, and played well (providing assists in both positions), demonstrating the versatility of his skillset. For the 2020/21 season, he has been directly involved in 0.62 goals P90.
Even if he favours his left foot he can be effective with his right foot when delivering balls in the penalty area, especially for low-driven crosses.
Potential and outlook
Maturing a bit more before going back to Anfield
Elliott is making a big impact in the Championship, where he has the second most assists at the time of writing. His remarkable vision and ball control set him apart from his peers, if he keeps this up and keeps improving he has the skills necessary to become a world-class creator.
In the short term, Elliott seems to be fitting in well at Blackburn, something not to be taken for granted for a loanee. So far, he has started all but one of the games he was eligible for. Blackburn’s 4-3-3 system allows him to play in his favored position on the right, with the occasional stint on the left or playing through the middle.
In our model, Elliott’s Soccerment Performance Rating (SPR) is foreseen growing by 11.3% in twelve months, to 46. That level wouldn’t justify a consistent presence in Liverpool’s squad, but would be consistent with a top-flight team, especially considering that – Elliott being just 17 years old – his potential improvement rate will remain very high for several years.
In the long term, Elliott seems to have the talent to play under the Kop. Playing regularly at Liverpool is going to be a tough challenge, but the manager and staff seem to have great faith in him and are willing to let him develop and then ease his way into the first team.
It would be interesting to see if his future in a team like Liverpool could be as a false nine, playing killer through-balls to the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, à la Roberto Firmino. Liverpool would have to significantly modify their playing style though, as Firmino and Elliott are very different players. According to our “Similarity” machine learning algorithm, the most similar player to Elliott, in terms of statistical output, is another Liverpool player: Xherdan Shaqiri.
– Vision: 0.5 through balls per 90 mins and 0.24 Expected Assists per 90 mins
– Heading (22% success ratio)
– Shoot more often
– Loan to an EPL side after his successful stint at Blackburn
– Another season in the Championship would risk his improvement stagnating
Eventually replacing Shaqiri at LFC?
Elliot’s loan at Blackburn expires at the end of the season. This opens up several possibilities for him: it is unlikely but not impossible that Blackburn will clinch promotion to the Premier League, in which case a renewal of his loan would give him continuity while playing in the Premier league.
A more likely option is Liverpool loaning him to another top flight side in order to continue his development and gain more experience.
Another year in the Championship would not be the best solution as he is already a top performer in that league.
Finally, Elliott could be integrated into Liverpool’s first team. He would be unlikely to get many minutes as he would be competing with Salah, Mane and Diogo Jota. But given his talent and the staff’s faith in young talent he would surely get his fair share of opportunities. In particular, he shares a lot in common with Shaqiri, as shown in our similarity algorithm, and perhaps the Swiss’ role in the squad is that most under threat from Elliot’s emergence.
This analysis is part of our ‘Wonderkids: 2021 Outlook‘. Please find the link to download the eBook here. A printed version is available too.