Is Harvey Elliott in with an outside chance of claiming the Young Player of the Season award?

In January of last year, halfway through the 2022/23 season, I wrote an article on Harvey Elliott, questioning whether he could be Liverpool’s future. Where would he play? Could he be Mo Salah’s replacement, or perhaps Jordan Henderson’s?

Fast-forward 17 months, and while some questions remain unanswered, new ones have emerged, and others have been addressed. At such a young age, Elliott has already made 119 appearances for Liverpool, contributing to 25 goals during this time, with 15 of those coming in the 2023-24 campaign— a stellar season for him. However, he has yet to truly define his best role.

He played 53 games this season, predominantly in central and attacking midfield (37 times with 13 goal involvements) compared to 16 times on the right wing (with a G/A return of just 2). This contrasts with my earlier point that he was more effective out wide due to his physicality in the middle and defensive thirds.

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There are a few reasons for this development. Not only is Elliott young and malleable, but he is also incredibly driven and hard-working, evidenced by his ability to bounce back ahead of schedule from his ankle fracture in the 2021/22 season. Additionally, working under one of the best coaches of the past 20 years, Jürgen Klopp has been influential in his development. Klopp himself expressed that his only regret from his time at Liverpool is not playing Elliott more often – a significant compliment from the now-departed German manager.

Moreover, the team and style of Liverpool have evolved around him. With less reliance on the forwards for creativity, players like Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai are now contributing goals from midfield. The department previously known as ‘the engine room’ is now more dynamic and critical, capable of winning the ball back high while adding a touch of enchantment and wonder. This shift has allowed Elliott to flourish not only for Liverpool but also for the England U21s, where he notched 7 goals and 6 assists in just 10 appearances, helping them qualify for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

Despite this, many are puzzled that he will not even be considered for EURO2024 this summer in Germany. However, this isn’t about the summer; it’s about next season. Given all the above, Harvey Elliott is an early contender for the 2024/25 Premier League Young Player of the Season.

Now, that may seem like a bit of a premature premonition, especially considering the 2023/24 winner Cole Palmer will still be in the conversation next year. After 33 goal contributions in 34 appearances, it is hard to imagine Palmer not following up on what was a stellar breakthrough season at Chelsea. You also have other contenders such as Kobbie Mainoo at Manchester United and Bukayo Saka at Arsenal, who will also still be in contention for the award come the start of the 2024/25 season.

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However, Elliott has gone from strength to strength this season, contributing to 9 goals in just 1,336 minutes of play, primarily off the bench – starting only 11 of the 34 games he appeared in from the central midfield role he has adapted to.

While Elliott is clearly quite an effective playmaker, notching up six assists this season, many have questioned his ability to score goals. This critique may hold some weight considering he has only scored 3 in the league this season. However, his firecracker from outside the box against Tottenham in matchweek 36 is a testament to the ability he possesses with that left foot.

Every time he gets on the ball around the box, you anticipate that he can make something happen. He reminds me of a point guard in basketball, catching the ball in the triple threat position, able to blow by his defender with close control, pick out one of his forwards with a needle-threading pass, or even take on the responsibility himself and put it in the back of the net.

Now, his archetype isn’t exactly unique in England. He is very similar to Saka, Palmer, and Foden – small, left-footed players able to play through the middle or out wide. Elliott has a real chance at joining those players at the top of the Premier League. There is, however, one crucial factor in Elliott’s ability to climb that mountain: the departure of Jürgen Klopp and the arrival of Arne Slot.

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Whether the new coach will favour Elliott as much as the previous one remains to be seen. Slot does have a history with players in Elliott’s mould, such as Calvin Stengs at Feyenoord, who was primarily a winger for much of his career before being utilised in a midfield three by Slot to great effect.

In summary, while the competition is fierce, Harvey Elliott’s adaptability, hard work, and recent performances position him as a strong contender for the Premier League Young Player of the Season. With the right guidance and a bit of luck, he could very well join the ranks of the league’s top young talents.

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