Harvey Elliott outlined his lofty long-term goal entering the new Premier League season, to fulfil his dream of becoming a consistent starter for Liverpool.
"It's down to me to take the opportunities when they come," the 18-year-old asserted.
Saturday's game against Burnley represented his first chance to impress in Jürgen Klopp's starting line-up at the top level. Despite being set the challenging task of slotting in to the Reds midfield three, Elliott seized the opportunity in a position he has limited experience in.
Perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising that Liverpool's prized prospect was comfortable, though. After all, Elliott was highly productive in the Sky Bet Championship last season, enjoying a lengthy loan spell at Blackburn that deserved more recognition.
Securing playing time at a good standard is a vital commodity for any young player, so the fact that Elliott logged almost 3000 fruitful minutes in the second-tier last term did little to calm the excitement around his potential.
Elliott was predominantly deployed on the right side of Blackburn's attack, but Tony Mowbray did utilise the youngster's skills in various spots during the 40 league appearances, 31 of which were starts.
In turn, Rovers were rewarded. Elliott scored seven goals and registered 11 assists in a stellar 2020/21 campaign, one that saw the teenager nominated for the EFL Young Player of the Season award.
Admittedly, Elliott overperformed both his expected goals (3.75 xG) and expected assist (7.93 xA) numbers at Rovers, a trait only the very best players in the world can repeat consistently.
However, that doesn't mean his underlying data wasn't exceptional.
Elliott's expected assists total ranks very highly in the Championship last season, especially when pitched against peers on a per 95 minutes (average match length) basis — a more accurate way to compare output.
He recorded an average 0.25 xA/95, second on the list of players that recorded more than 1500 minutes. Only Emi Buendia separated himself from the pack more impressively, an established player that was bought for a sizable fee this summer.
In fact, Elliott is ahead of Bryan Mbeumo, Michael Olise and Arnaut Danjuma in the same metric, all three of which are tasked with providing creativity at a top-tier league team this season.
Such numbers — and company — suggest Elliott was ready for the step up to Premier League level, making the news of his promising pre-season a little less surprising.
What is a little surprising is Elliott's apparent use as an '8', seemingly becoming an effective replacement for the outgoing Xherdan Shaqiri, who was required for important minutes in Liverpool's midfield three during the injury-riddled 2020/21 season.
Klopp obviously trusts him in that position, too, coming on as a substitute for Naby Keita at Norwich in the season opener.
Then, with Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner all unavailable, Elliott was afforded the chance to start in the Premier League for the Reds. A full debut at the level against a robust Burnley side.
Elliott didn't just survive in Liverpool's midfield three, though, he thrived.
The youngster led all players in both progressive passes and progressive carries at Anfield. He also registered 0.27 xA and had a delightful assist chalked off after a Mo Salah goal was disallowed for offside.
Elliott's passing and dribbling ability was on full display, but his defensive work was perhaps more impressive considering his shift to midfield.
The 18-year-old was full of energy, a prerequisite in a Klopp led team, recording a game-high 27 pressures, which is measured by tallying the number of times he applied pressure to an opposing player who is receiving, carrying or releasing the ball.
He is a talent to be nurtured, one that offers Liverpool a different dimension in multiple positions.
It might be folly to suggest that Elliott is ready to start in as tough a test as Chelsea will pose on Saturday, but the prior weekend was proof that the Reds' prized prospect is capable of making an immediate impact.
On this trajectory, Harvey Elliott may become a consistent starter for Liverpool sooner than even he could imagine, fulfilling his childhood dream in the process.
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