Alexis Mac Allister is putting up some very interesting numbers for Liverpool. They ask questions of the grand plan.
Alexis Mac Allister arrived at Liverpool this summer as a hugely talented midfielder. However, he's quickly been pushed into a holding midfield role, given the Reds' lack of one.
And so it's fallen on Mac Allister to fill in the gap. He's the one who sits deepest in midfield, shielding the defence and covering the press. Is he actually any good at it, though?
There have been times this season where the Argentine simply hasn't looked suited. He's not quick, not particularly stong and gets caught out.
But looking into the data of Mac Allister and other top-of-the-table players in that role, it seems he's actually doing quite well.
You can see that Mac Allister actually wins more tackles on average, recovers the ball more often, blocks more passes and averages more combined tackles & interceptions than any of Rodri, Declan Rice or Bruno Guimaraes.
This is all very good, certainly, but a bit more information highlights why this is. Mac Allister finds himself one-on-one against a dribbler 3.67 times per 90 minutes. This is over twice that of Rodri (1.48) or Declan Rice (1.83), and much higher than Bruno (2.08).
Now, Liverpool's no.10 handles this quite well - his 47% success rate of winning tackles is in line with the others. In fact, it's an identical percentage to Rice. But that's not the issue.
The problem is that Mac Allister has to do a lot more than any of the other lone holding-midfielders mentioned. He's averaging 50% more tackles in the midfield third, nearly twice as many tackles in the attacking third. That's on top of the extra recoveries, the blocks and the extra dribblers.
So while Mac Allister is performing well, Liverpool ask their out-of-position player to do more on his own than their rivals do in that role. A lot more.
That, surely, can't continue. It's inevitable that Mac Allister will run into issues when he's left to all of this. It's a symptom of the Reds' overall gameplan, essentially, with the very high press leaving the Argentine with little support and very isolated at times.
With the other midfielders pushing and pressing so high, Mac Allister is left to recover all of these loose balls and face dribblers one-vs-one. Our suspicion is that Rodi and Rice - two natural players in the role - would have pretty incredible numbers if left in a similar position.
On the one hand, Liverpool can be happy with Mac Allister and believe he's only going to get better. His numbers are still very good - and should improve as he gets used to the role.
On the other, the team would surely benefit from having a more specialised player there. Mac Allister would almost certainly prefer to be in a natural role himself, slightly further forward. In fact, move him slightly further forward with a defensive specialist behind him and Liverpool will be more secure than they currently are.
Not only would such a player be slightly better suited to it, but they'd also benefit from having Mac Allister next to them - a player who can hold his own there, even in a less-than-ideal situation.