Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Harvey Elliott: Mohamed Salah's Best Wingman

Harvey Elliott holding the width for Liverpool frees Mohamed Salah to move to the center of the pitch, where he is more dangerous. You need to maintain width to create space centrally, and without a wingman like Elliott, Salah is forced to stay outside.

Figure 1.1 - Mohamed Salah inverts to the center of the pitch while Harvey Elliott helps maintain the triangle on the right-wing.
Figure 2.1 - Mohamed Salah inverts to the center of the pitch while Harvey Elliott attacks the right-wing with Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Figure 3.1 - Mohamed Salah inverts into the right half-space while Harvey Elliott readies himself to maintain width on the right-wing.

Out wide, Salah can only affect the game through creating. Hope and a prayer crosses into Nunez or Gakpo. You want Salah as close to the center of the box as you can get because that is where it will be easiest to score, especially if you need a goal late in a game.

In previous seasons, Trent Alexander-Arnold was the wingman, holding the width at right-back, preoccupying the opposition full-back with the right center-midfielder, to allow Salah to move inside. Now that he is being played more as a holding midfielder, he can’t help hold the width on the right-wing.

Salah can’t abandon the wing without someone filling in because if he does, the center of the pitch will become too crowded. They’ve tried doing that and it didn’t work. Someone else has to fill in.

Despite the fact that Harvey Elliott lacks physicality right now, other than Salah, he has the best close control, fast decision making, and 1v1 dribbling ability of the options available to Liverpool on the right side of the pitch. This is important because of the way they attack—quick; you can’t afford an errant touch, a pass into a non-threatening area, or to lose out in a 1v1. You need quick decisive action that acts as close to the same pace that Salah runs.

Figure 4.1 - Harvey maintains width, allowing Mohamed Salah to invert into the half-space.
Figure 4.2 - Joe Gomez crosses while Mohamed Salah attacks the unmarked space at the top of the box.

Without Elliott, plays like this would not be feasible. His presence forces Crystal Palace to spread out to cover both him and Joe Gomez. That allows Salah to have the space to attack at the top of the box. To poach.

Elliott should be trusted more because he moves in step with Mohamed Salah in a way that Cody Gakpo, Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Curtis Jones, and Ryan Gravenberch cannot.

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