Jürgen Klopp is a ‘big fan’ of an apparent Liverpool transfer target. The talent is undeniable, but a Harvey Elliott question must first be resolved
Nobody would expect to have played in every single game by this point in the season. Liverpool has competed on four fronts, plus the Community Shield, totaling 40 games.
Nonetheless, if Liverpool fans had to guess who would be ever-present by the end of March at the start of the season, some stock names would undoubtedly appear. Virgil van Dijk has been a near-automatic selection for Jürgen Klopp at Anfield since his arrival. Mohamed Salah has been remarkably durable over the years. Alisson could be a contender in goal, though Caoimhn Kelleher is now firmly established as the League Cup goalkeeper.
It would be necessary to go quite far down the list of possible answers before reaching Harvey Elliott. The teenager is no longer just a very exciting prospect; he is also an excellent technician in his own right. Having said that, even the player is surprised at how much he has appeared.
It’s not just his young age that makes it surprising. The bigger mystery is that Elliott has appeared so frequently despite the fact that Klopp does not appear to have a firm grasp on where the teenager fits into Liverpool’s long-term plans.
For the majority of this season, Klopp has leaned heavily on ‘project midfield,’ experimenting with Elliott as one of his central three. He has grown into the role, with his defensive output increasing since the beginning of the season. In terms of offense, he adds something new and creative to a unit that has previously been primarily functional under German rule.
However, it is impossible to deny that Klopp’s decision was motivated by necessity. This season, his go-to midfield has run out of steam, so any kind of energy and vigor has been gratefully seized. Longer term, he might prefer a more secure defensive presence.
There have been hints to that effect from time to time. Despite the midfield woes, Elliott has occasionally found himself on the right wing, with Salah repurposed as a more central striker. Meanwhile, there have been stretches of games when Klopp has preferred to use the youngster off the bench rather than from the start, typically when Liverpool has looked most vulnerable defensively.
The bottom line is that Elliott is an attacking midfielder, as his loan at Blackburn arguably demonstrated. Fábio Carvalho, another huge talent, is in a similar situation. Curtis Jones, to a lesser extent, may also claim to be a member of that group. And this creates a huge problem when Liverpool’s long-established
Klopp must therefore make a decision. Is he going to rip up his winning template? While he was largely committed to it at Anfield, he made a 4-2-3-1 work at Borussia Dortmund, demonstrating that he is not completely rigid. Liverpool, on the other hand, has won every major trophy available in recent years, so he will not change a winning formula lightly.
All of this brings us in a roundabout fashion to the latest Liverpool transfer link. The club is keeping an eye on Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz, according to Fabrizio Romano, with Klopp a “big fan” of the player.
Any move would not be expected until 2024, so Klopp has some time to work out what his Liverpool 2.0 blueprint looks like. But on the face of it, Wirtz would be yet another player to fit into this awkward mold of attacking midfielders.
From a pure talent standpoint, it’s easy to see why Klopp likes Wirtz. He is a creative phenomenon — his participation this season has been limited by a serious injury, from which he has recovered strongly so far — but his numbers from 2021/22 tell the full story.
For assists, expected assists, and shot-creating actions, the Leverkusen wonderkid was in the 98th percentile of attacking midfielders and wingers in the Bundesliga (FBref). Elite territory also included progressive passes, progressive carries, and successful take-ons. He profiles exceptionally well when combined with the character’s ability to recover from his lengthy layoff.
His defensive work, on the other hand, is a little light. Better than Elliott’s, it is nonetheless hardly typical of a Klopp midfielder, or indeed a candidate to be turned into the Roberto Firmino heir slightly higher up the pitch.
Thus, Klopp needs to work out what he is doing with his existing playmakers before he decides what he is doing with Wirtz. If Liverpool will not be playing with a number 10 regularly in the near future, the club should sit out this transfer race. If the plan calls for a tactical shift, the German would be an exciting addition — and one who would give Elliott a rare day off.