Why Alexis Mac Allister isn't being misused at Liverpool

What is it with Liverpool midfielders being misunderstood?

It happened with Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and even Thiago Alcantara. We as fans have a preconceived idea of how a player is going to be used and when it doesn’t play out as we expected, we’re quick to say they’re being wasted.

The same thing is happening now with Alexis Mac Allister.

A lot of the chatter following the 2-2 draw with Brighton centred around the 24-year-old World Cup winner. How he was being used in the wrong position and how Jurgen Klopp wasn’t doing him any favours by deploying him as a defensive midfielder.

There seemed to be an assumption that the number 10 would be coming in to play as one of the advanced midfielders. That, as a South American maestro, he would be placed in the final third and allowed to do his thing. After all, he finished last season with 10 Premier League goals and two assists.

However, six of those goals arrived via penalties and he wasn’t necessarily a regular goal threat for the Seagulls. That often goes under the radar when his output is being discussed.

In fact, a lot of what he did for Brighton seems to be overlooked. For example, half of his appearances last season arrived as part of a deep double pivot and he started more times there than he did as an attacking midfielder.

Arguably his best performances for Roberto De Zerbi’s side came as part of a midfield double pivot alongside Moises Caicedo. The interesting thing about that is, despite what people might think, the defensive burden was shared equally between the players. Caicedo is better on the ball than a lot of people realise while Mac Allister is deceptively efficient without the ball. More often than not, Brighton would task Caicedo with pushing up and pressing while their number 10 would sit a little deeper and sweep up.

READ MORE: Jurgen Klopp admits he 'didn't look' for Alexis Mac Allister's best position 

His role wasn’t too dissimilar to the one he’s playing for the Reds this season. He starts in a midfield three but with the right-back inverting he often finds himself as part of a double pivot when Liverpool are in possession. There’s more of a defensive burden placed on his shoulders but if everyone else does their job, Mac Allister should only have to cover smaller areas.

Klopp mentioned this recently, saying: "If we as a team defend well, he [Mac Allister] can play definitely the six. Did I know that before? I had a guess but I was not sure because I did not know exactly how all the other boys would do defending. Because we defend more compact and better than in our bad phases last year, we have small spaces and then it is really good because he sees the situations really well and we have a really good footballer and it is really cool.”

Alexis Mac Allister, ProShots

The issue against Brighton was that Liverpool left huge spaces for the Argentina international to defend and he looked exposed. Sort the balance of the team and Mac Allister can more than hold his own in that role. He’s done so all season.

His numbers paint a picture too.

He’s averaging slightly more tackles per 90 this season and he’s winning a higher percentage of tackles against dribblers. He’s busier but also more efficient. The Liverpool number 10 is averaging a combined five tackles and interceptions per 90, proving himself to be useful there. For context, peak Fabinho during the title-winning campaign of 2019/20 was averaging 4.16 tackles and interceptions. Nicknamed 'The Lighthouse' by Pep Lijnders, he often gave the Reds a solid platform to build attacks. Mac Allister is doing that, isn’t he?

READ MORE: Alexis Mac Allister opens up on playing as 'number six' & Brighton mistake 

Furthermore, this isn’t detracting from his on-ball stuff either. He’s actually playing more passes than ever before (65 per 90) and his pass completion is higher than it was for the Seagulls, with 89% of his attempts finding a teammate. Mac Allister is also playing more progressive passes this term (5.88 up from 5.42).

The only real difference is with shots. He’s averaging significantly fewer but that isn’t exactly a bad thing. His average shot distance last season was 22 yards and he was taking 2.5 per 90. He only scored four non-penalty goals so he was quite wasteful.

Liverpool have simply tasked Mac Allister with being a key part of their build-up phase while also enabling him to see more of the ball, something you want for someone as technical as he is.

He isn’t being misused. The Reds are, mostly, playing to his strengths. It just isn’t how many imagined it.

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