After a successful loan spell at Blackburn last year — where he immediately established himself as their best creative player despite his tender years — expectations were quite high for Harvey Elliott when the 2021-22 season started. The assumption was that he would be part of the forward rotation, dueling with Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi for playing, likely topping out somewhere around 1500 minutes on the season.
Four games into the season, Harvey was a starter. Simple as. Slotting into the right free eight spot, his interplay with Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold was pure alchemy, as the trio interchanged positions at will, pulling defenders this way and that, as Liverpool racked up the goals in dominant performances.
Moving Harvey from the wide attacking role into midfield looked nothing short of a masterstroke, as his ability to find space in which to receive the ball then turn and progress it up the pitch, either by pass or carry — he remains third in progressive passes per 90 minutes in the league, and 13th in progressive carries — paired with his relentless pressing and significant final third threat, revealed that Elliott was something of a footballing unicorn.
A dreadful tackle from behind by Pascal Struijk put a plug in all that, fracturing the 18-year old’s ankle and sidelining him just as he was establishing himself as one of the four or five premier teenagers in European football. It was a heartbreaking moment, with the realisation of the immediate consequences painted on his face as much as the pain of the damaged joint, but the former Fulham prospect was back to work almost immediately following surgery, detailing every step of his recovery on social media along the way.
And today, only four months later, Harvey Elliott participated in team training. Striking the ball and taking part in passing drills and small side play, the midfielder looked to have missed not a single step, an enormously encouraging sight for fans of the club.
Realistically, it’ll still be a while before Harvey is ready for competitive action — this writer has long predicted a late February return — but just seeing the young man back on the pitch with a smile is a wonderful treat to start the week.