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Harvey Elliott must play for Liverpool if Jurgen Klopp wants his pressing team back after Crystal Palace defeat

Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace on Sunday with Jurgen Klopp highlighting his team's poor pressing. So why isn't Harvey Elliott in the team? In The Debrief, Adam Bate examines why this is a player who could make the difference...

Liverpool's Harvey Elliott was not introduced against Crystal Palace until the 82nd minute
Image: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott was not introduced against Crystal Palace until the 82nd minute

Liverpool’s lethargic first-half performance against Crystal Palace could well have cost them the Premier League title. At this crucial stage of the season, there has been a dip in intensity. Perhaps Harvey Elliott is the man who can up those levels once more?

That is the view of many supporters confused as to why Elliott was hooked at half-time during the defeat to Atalanta on Thursday and only entered the fray against Palace after the 80-minute mark. Elliott brings the pressing that Jurgen Klopp is missing.

It was this pressing, as much as the more obvious fault of Liverpool's dismal finishing on Sunday afternoon, that appeared to irk Klopp most. Pressing at only 80 per cent intensity is worse than not pressing at all, he explained. "It makes no sense."

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace's Premier League win against Liverpool

The front three failed to provide any kind of coordinated pressure and though Curtis Jones was "really going for it" behind them, Alexis Mac Allister and Wataru Endo "did not follow" and the result was a disjointed performance without the ball.

"You can only defend by putting the guy on the ball under pressure and we did not do that," said Klopp. This is non-negotiable for him so it will hurt. "Where we are, we got to by being an absolute machine against the ball and that is what we have to be."

It has long been the mantra. "Our identity is intensity." That was the now famous line uttered by assistant manager Pep Lijnders during the club's title-winning season. Lijnders even named his book Intensity so important has it been for Klopp's team.

One is reminded of the press conference in October 2019 when Lijnders made that comment about Liverpool's intensity being their identity. Speaking after an important win over Tottenham, he went on to explain why that off-the-ball work was essential.

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"All the attention goes to the offensive part," said Lijnders. "The difference was made in the 30 per cent we did not have the ball, how we were protected constantly, how our concentration and intensity was when we lost the ball."

All of which makes Elliott being overlooked so surprising because his off-the-ball work has often been praised by his manager. After the 7-0 win over Manchester United last season, Klopp highlighted his counter-pressing as the main reason for his inclusion.

According to Liverpool's in-house metrics, Elliott had registered the most counter-presses of any player in the Premier League that season in the previous game. "If that is not a qualification for starting again then I do not know one, to be honest."

It is fascinating that Klopp should regard it as self-evident that such a metric is perhaps the most vital of them all when it comes to earning a place in his team. Access to Second Spectrum data can bring us a little closer to understanding what he was seeing.

This tool defines pressure as being applied either directly to the opponent in possession or indirectly to the potential receivers of the pass. It qualifies as a sprinting pressure if the person pressing reaches a sustained speed of 25 kilometres per hour or more.

Elliott ranks among the top 10 players in the Premier League for sprinting pressures per 90 minutes this season - averaging eight-and-a-half such pressures. It is this intensity that Klopp values - and this intensity that was so lacking from the outset against Palace.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace's Premier League win against Liverpool

Speaking to Scott Chickelday, Elliott's coach when he was a 10-year-old boy at Queens Park Rangers and someone who has done individual sessions with the player even since he moved to Liverpool, he sees these numbers as a consequence of his attitude.

"Harvey is probably the hardest-working player that I have ever worked with," Chickelday tells Sky Sports. "He would not rest until we had regained possession. He led it. He was relentless with it. He is still like it to this day. He is just a hard worker.

"Even at a young age, he was always the first one there, 45 minutes before the session started, driving me mad, 'Can I have a ball, Scott?' He was always the one hanging around after too. Always the hardest worker in training. He had that mentality."

"That is why you always looked at him. You can never really predict anything at that age but even then you found yourself thinking that if he carries on, he will have a chance with this mentality. It is the ones who continue to work hard however their day has been."

It speaks volumes that Elliott reached out to Chickelday to continue doing extra work even after he had made it by moving to Liverpool. Together, they worked on his ball striking, with the player acutely aware that he needed to add even more to his game to progress.

"Harvey is like that. Harvey does not do anything halfway. If he is in, he is fully in. He wants to be the best and that means being the best trainer and being at the best club. That is why he is at Liverpool. Even at QPR, he talked about playing for Liverpool one day."

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Watch Liverpool pair Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones take a trip down memory lane

Supporters respond to that, employers too.

"I have only ever heard positive things about him in training, about his work, his mentality, his focus." Having made over 100 appearances for Liverpool before turning 21 earlier this month, the surprise for Chickelday is that Elliott is yet to play for his country.

"I don't get why he isn't in the England squad," he adds. "That is just my opinion. It feels like he has been around so long because he debuted for Fulham at 16 but he is still so young. I am sure England is on his mind. He is using that as a driving force."

Live Super Sunday

Getting into the Liverpool team is the first challenge. Elliott has not started in the Premier League since the draw against Manchester City, but he came on to good effect to help tilt subsequent games against Sheffield United and Manchester United their way.

If Klopp wants Liverpool to refocus on pressing, to return to being an absolute machine as he puts it, he does not have far to look.

Watch Fulham vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League this Sunday at 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm.

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