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Harvey Elliott is about to solve Liverpool’s biggest midfield problem

Harvey Elliott has yet to record a Premier League assist for Liverpool. His creativity statistics show that one should be just around the corner

 

Much has been made of the lack of creativity in Liverpool’s midfield over the years. The early weeks of the 2022/23 season have done little to address this potential issue.

 

James Milner picked up their sole assist, in the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace, though clearly that owed far more to Luis Diaz dribbling past two players and unleashing a brilliant, long-range shot than anything the veteran offered. Despite the Reds rattling in nine goals against Bournemouth, not one of the seven men who appeared in the central trio set up a goal.

 

Then again, neither did Mohamed Salah, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too critical. Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott both got their first league goals for the club, and the latter was incredibly unfortunate not to record an assist too. It has been a running theme in this campaign already.

 

With two goals in the opening six minutes, Liverpool could play with a freedom they lacked in their previous matches this term. On the quarter hour mark, a fantastic team move saw Elliott square the ball across the box to an unmarked Salah. To the amazement of everyone, he steered his shot wide of the post from three yards out and with the goal gaping.

 

Expected goal values for single shots should always be taken with a pinch of salt. There are so many factors and variables at play that it’s almost impossible for two moments to be identical. Nonetheless, the chance Elliott crafted for Salah was valued at 0.97 xG by Understat.

 

The Reds have had over 3,200 shots in the league since the start of the 2017/18 season, and only one other has been as highly rated as this chance against the Cherries. It was also by Salah, when he tapped in against Southampton in 2018 after a Xherdan Shaqiri free-kick rebounded down from the crossbar.

 

The likelihood is that Elliott won’t create many, if any, chances as good as that across the rest of his career. None of the other key passes he has played in his brief Premier League career have come close, but that it isn’t to say he hasn’t almost assisted some massively important goals.

 

In the draw at Fulham, the 19-year-old set up an injury time shot for Jordan Henderson, with the captain’s long-range drive beating the goalkeeper but striking the crossbar. Against Crystal Palace, Elliott played a fabulous high pass over the Eagles’ back line to Darwin Nunez. Once again, the subsequent shot found the frame of the goal and not the back of the net.

Although there was little for the Reds to cheer in their loss against Manchester United, they did at least get on the scoresheet. Once again Elliott was involved in one of his side’s key moments of the game. His headed pass into the box found Carvalho, and although the youngster’s shot was saved, Salah put away the rebound.

 

His contributions have been clear to see, particularly if we refer to the data on FBRef. Where Opta simply credit the player who passes to the colleague who takes the shot for a chance created, Statsbomb look at the two actions prior to the goal attempt.

By their measure, Elliott has averaged 6.4 shot creating actions per 90 minutes in 2022/23, the most of any player in the Premier League. Similarly, he has logged three goal creating actions by their definition, second only to Roberto Firmino’s five for the Reds, and joint-eighth most in the division.

Yet in more established, conventional terms, Elliott has no assists. But they are undoubtedly coming, and when they do it should mean people have one fewer grumble regarding Liverpool’s midfield.

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