Liverpool's midfield rebuild: Could an expanded role await Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones or Stefan Bajcetic?

2PJ9NM3 Liverpool's Harvey Elliott during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. Picture date: Saturday April 1, 2023.

The immediacy of Liverpool’s signing of Alexis Mac Allister barely more than a week after their final match of the Premier League season has done little to slow the number of midfielders who continue to be linked with a move to Anfield.

But what could more arrivals as part of a midfield rebuild mean for the club’s young trio of Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones and Stefan Bajcetic? And conversely, did any of the three perform to a level which will have given Jurgen Klopp food for thought ahead of the 2023-24 season?

Competitive action hasn’t stopped for both Elliott and Jones, who have helped England Under-21s to top their group at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship hosted in Romania and Georgia, while Bajcetic is rehabilitating an injury which cut short his breakthrough season in April.

With a new sporting director on board in Jorg Schmadtke, Liverpool have emerged as strong favourites to sign OGC Nice midfielder Khéphren Thuram and are also reportedly rivalling Arsenal in their pursuit of Southampton’s Romeo Lavia.

On top of Elliott, Jones and Bajcetic, here we will explore how Thuram and Lavia both fared for their clubs last season across PFF’s grading.

Harvey Elliott

PFF passing grade: 74.9 (35/99)

Elliott saw the number of league games he started last season jump to 18 from four in 2021-22, leading him to play in the third-most minutes (1,751) of Liverpool’s midfield options behind Fabinho (2,880) and Jordan Henderson (2,257).

His passing grade of 74.9 places him fifth amongst Liverpool’s midfielders, but among this group he does top them all in chances created per-90 at 1.5 – perhaps by virtue of his ability to play on the wing – and also in pressures applied per-90 (29.6).

Name Minutes played PFF passing grade Accuracy-adjusted passing % Chances created per-90
Fabinho 2,880 81.7 86% 0.5
Jordan Henderson 2,257 79.1 79% 1.2
Curtis Jones 1,114 77.5 91% 1.1
Thiago 1,364 76.2 84% 1.3
Harvey Elliott 1,751 74.9 81% 1.5
James Milner 1,053 71 81% 1.3
Stefan Bajcetic 568 60.1 74% 0.5

One notable point of Elliott’s pass grading lies in his top-five graded performances, of which four have come from when he was classed as a winger or attacking midfielder rather than as a midfielder.

Elliott possesses the quality across facets required of a midfielder when in possession, grading above 70.0 in ball carrying (73.0), crossing (71.4), and shooting (71.5). It is the end product that Klopp will be hoping to see Elliott deliver on after registering two assists and one goal for Liverpool last season.

Curtis Jones

PFF passing grade: 77.5 (23/99)

At the start of the year, Curtis Jones’ outlook at Liverpool was clouded by fitness issues but he turned that around with how he finished the season.

A starter in nine of the team’s last ten matches as Liverpool claimed fifth place, Jones will be looking to continue that run of games to further cement his position in Klopp’s plans with Thiago’s contract only having 12 months remaining.

James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have already departed, and that could give Jones a chance to shine. His passing grade of 77.5 is underpinned by an accuracy-adjusted pass completion rate of 91% – the best rate of any midfielder in the Premier League (min. 1,000 minutes played).

Jones has not left Fabinho isolated as the anchor of Liverpool’s midfield, as he performed well in disrupting opposition ball carriers with a tackling grade of 75.0.

Stefan Bajcetic

PFF passing grade: 60.1 (position rank: 58/99)

Bajcetic was one of redeeming features of Liverpool’s disappointing first half of the season, registering only five wins in their first 14 games.

The Spaniard will not turn 19 until October but showed signs of being the heir-apparent to Fabinho in the No.6 role for Liverpool, generating a 70.1 challenge grade and 73.2 ball-carrying grade.

After a thigh injury ruled him out of the final three months of the season, Bajcetic’s passing grade of 60.1 will be one area of focus for the teenager who shined in the Merseyside derby back in February.

Nice midfielder Khephren Thuram
2N831M3 Nice, France. 10th Feb, 2023. February 10, 2023, Rome, France: Khephren THURAM of Nice during the French championship Ligue 1 football match between OGC Nice and AC Ajaccio on February 10, 2023 at Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, France – Photo Matthieu Mirville/DPPI/LiveMedia. (Credit Image: © Matthieu Mirville/LPS via ZUMA Press) Credit: Zuma Press/Alamy Live News

Khéphren Thuram

PFF passing grade: 74.0

The time could be now for Nice to look to cash in on Thuram. With two years remaining on his contract, the Frenchman is one of the best talents in Ligue 1 and has earned recognition for this ability as a ball-carrying midfielder who is also physical out of possession.

And that shows in his grading, with a spectacular 89.4 ball-carrying grade on 227 events earning top-spot among all Ligue 1 midfielders. As a challenger, Thuram has earned a 70.6 grade which places him inside the top 30 midfielders.

Romeo Lavia

PFF passing grade: 71.6 (position rank: 47/99)

Reports in Lavia’s native Belgium have claimed Liverpool are ready to bid for the Southampton midfielder who was a regular under Ralph Hassenhuttl, Nathan Jones and Ruben Selles at St Mary’s last season.

The teenager, like Thuram, impressed in his ability as a press-resistance distributor as he earned an 80.3 tackle resistance grade – ranked the sixth-best among Premier League midfielders. If Klopp was to use Lavia in the same way as Southampton did, then he profiles to be an option in the No.6 role held by Fabinho.

Last season saw the former Anderlecht academy player claim a 72.8 challenge grade, good enough to rank 15th at his position in the facet.

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