How Arne Slot solves Alexis Mac Allister problem will define entire Liverpool ERA

Arne Slot has quite the to-do list to work his way through at Liverpool. For starters, the new head coach needs to figure out what he’s going to do with Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Will the Dutch tactician use the England international in a familiar right-back position or will he commit to moving the No.66 into midfield permanently like Gareth Southgate appears to be doing?

If he’s deployed at full-back, will he revert to being a traditional one or will he be given the freedom to invert?

Slot also needs to decide what Cody Gakpo is. Jurgen Klopp used the former PSV attacker in a variety of roles and the 25-year-old is yet to really find a set position for himself in the Liverpool squad. Right now, he’s a utility player. Will he remain as this or is there more of a specialist role for him shortly under his compatriot?

Then there’s the Darwin Nunez conundrum. The Uruguayan is a serious goal threat but by no means is he a reliable goal scorer.

Does Slot persist with him as the spearhead of the attack, something he would ideally need to do if he’s to get the best out of the initial £64million signing, or does he rejig things in the final third and have the former Benfica man play the part of a support act?

You could also make the case that Slot needs to determine the roles, within the team and the squad, of a number of other players.

Slot must figure out Mac Allister

He also needs to work on attacking patterns of play as well as how the Reds defend as a unit. There really is a lot to do during the 2024/25 pre-season. More than people realise.

But a priority of his should be Alexis Mac Allister.

The World Cup winner impressed during his debut campaign on Merseyside.

He anchored the midfield early on as the Reds mounted an unlikely title challenge. Klopp would often comment on how if the system was well balanced, the former Brighton maestro could flourish in the unfamiliar position.

Alexis Mac Allister for Liverpool vs Sheffield United.

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Speaking after the 4-0 win over Bournemouth in January, Klopp said: “He didn’t play the single six at Brighton, but he’s an incredibly smart player. And as long as you can create a compact formation, Macca is an outstanding six.

"You can all tell me what you want – he’s an outstanding six. On the ball, better than all sixes you can imagine, and [off] the ball, he’s just really strong. If the pitch is too big, the half-spaces are too open, yeah, I don’t know a lot of sixes who are then great – but there might be a few who come off [better] on the defensive side of it.”

Despite opinion being divided on Mac Allister as the deepest midfielder, the Reds looked confident, composed and at ease with the Argentina international in that role. The performances weren’t that of a player being shoehorned into a position.

Klopp complicates the picture

But then Klopp complicated the conversation by unleashing his No.10 higher up the pitch. With Wataru Endo at the base, Mac Allister was allowed to influence things in the final third and he started chipping in with goals and assists.

From the Brentford game onwards in February, the 25-year-old scored six goals and chipped in with five assists across 20 appearances in all competitions.


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And, again, the German coach heaped praise on his versatile midfielder, saying: "Alexis is very important to us, he always has been since he was here. He can play different positions. He has the tactical brain to do that job. That says everything about him as a player.

"He is never really bothered by it, which shows what he is like as a player. I've never heard anything about that he said he'd prefer to play higher.

"We don't restrict players, everyone who is not directly involved has to protect. That is how we understand football. Alexis is a key part of that. Ask him or me in five years what his best natural position is and you might be surprised."

A decision on Macca must be made

Mac Allister impressed as a No.6 and as a No.8 for Liverpool in Klopp’s 4-3-3. Slot, at times, used a similar system with Feyenoord. His left-sided No.8, Quinten Timber, finished with 16 goal involvements last term.

The way Slot has his team playing football does allow the midfielders to contribute in the final third, so he might want the World Cup winner to be amongst the goals and assists. But then the No.6 is heavily involved in the build-up and the new head coach might want Mac Allister to have that responsibility.

There needs to be a decision made on his long-term role though. He can’t be first-choice No.6 and third-choice No.8 as that means a lot of upheaval in midfield if he’s ever to play in an advanced role, for example.

This decision also impacts what the Reds do in the transfer market. If Mac Allister is viewed as an attacking midfielder, a starting defensive midfielder needs to arrive. This could be a transformative signing, just as Fabinho was for the Reds when he arrived.

It might not necessarily be make or break but figuring out what Mac Allister is in this Slot era could shape what this team does on and off of the pitch under the Dutchman.

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