There have been question marks over Jurgen Klopp's persistence in playing summer signing Alexis Mac Allister as a No. 6, but the Liverpool manager has explained his reasoning for playing the World Cup winner in a deeper role.
The Reds sauntered to a 3-0 victory over Nottingham Forest at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, winning a third successive game since the international break after victories over Everton and Toulouse.
It was also an encouraging afternoon for Mac Allister, who started at the base of a three-man midfield alongside fellow newcomers Dominik Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch. Despite some mild criticism this season in a less familiar role, the Argentine thrived against Nottingham Forest.
After the match, Klopp was unequivocal in his praise for Mac Allister after a strong showing, highlighting the reasoning behind his decision to keep the £35m man as a No. 6.
Speaking after the game, Klopp said: "It’s not really a discussion we have, otherwise we wouldn’t play him there. Obviously.
"I think today everybody could see the benefit of a player who comes rather from the offensive side of the game than from the other side. In a game where you have to create things where you have to pass, switch sides – that’s how it is because not all balls reach the target.
"But if you try something in tight spaces, that’s completely normal. I have no problem at all with losing balls around the box because that’s where we should be then for the counter-press. So, these things can happen."
Mac Allister was influential in both defensive and offensive positions, making a combined four tackles and blocks, as well as 11 recoveries. The Argentine also had 101 touches - more than any game he has played this term - and a season-high 17 progressive passes, highlighting his ability to bring the ball forward as well as protecting the back four.
On Mac Allister's outing, Klopp added: "I’m really pleased for him. A lot of top defensive moments, really killed the counter and stuff like this – he’s good in these things.
“That’s why we play him there. In one-v-one situations, he’s really good and we have to make sure as a team that the spaces are really small in these moments
“We can do that with the [No.] 8s, wingers and the central striker and we can do that with the centre-half defending in midfield in these moments.
“We have a really creative player in the centre of the park, together with Trent in some moments which is, obviously, helpful. Very helpful.”
Mac Allister is likely to be given a well-earned rest against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup midweek, replaced with the increasingly impressive Wataru Endo, but his performance against Nottingham Forest shows just how much he is improving under Klopp's tutelage.