It's time for Alexis Mac Allister experiment to end at Liverpool

The signing of Alexis Mac Allister felt like a game-changer for Liverpool during the summer transfer window.

At least prior to Dominik Szoboszlai stealing all of our hearts and becoming the new darling of the midfield.

This was a World Cup-winning star who had shone so brightly for both Argentina and Brighton, he ticked every box for the Reds, at a time when a midfield revamp was essential after so many woes last season.

Mac Allister was someone who could cover ground, provide intelligence on and off the ball, and also chip in with goals and assists, having teed up Angel Di Maria for a fantastic team goal in the World Cup final against France last December.

What we have seen from the 24-year-old in his first few months has been a little disappointing, however, with his performances generally solid, but also underwhelming at times.

One thing that must be stressed is that it hasn’t been his fault in the slightest.

Liverpool’s failure to sign an out-and-out defensive midfielder has been well-documented in recent months, with many experts and supporters of the opinion that not doing so will cost Jurgen Klopp’s side dearly.

You only have to look at how influential Fabinho was at his peak to realise how priceless a world-class 'number six' is to any team with Premier League title aspirations, not to mention seeing how much Manchester City are struggling without Rodri at the moment.

Klopp has ultimately decided that Mac Allister is his first-choice defensive midfielder for the time being, seeing the Argentine as an individual who can bring control and defensive nous in that area, with the likes of Szoboszlai, Curtis Jones, Ryan Gravenberch and Harvey Elliott as the 'number eights'.

READ MORE: 5 talking points from Liverpool's 2-2 draw at Brighton

To put it bluntly, it isn’t working, though, even if it hasn't been a failure in every game either.

When Liverpool have what is deemed to be an ‘easy’ fixture - there haven’t been many of those yet this season, aside from Bournemouth at home - having Mac Allister in the deep-lying role will generally not be an issue.

These are games that generally see the Reds dominate possession and not be tested too often at the back, so midfield cracks can be papered over.

There isn’t the counter-attacking threat or ambition from more limited opponents, so having what looks like a fairly attack-minded midfield feels like far less of an issue.

On the flip side, when dangerous sides take on Liverpool – those who spring them on the break and press the life out of them – Mac Allister’s flaws as a defensive midfielder are being exposed time and time again.

Sunday’s 2-2 draw away to Brighton was arguably his poorest performance so far in a Reds shirt, as he struggled badly against his former club, who clearly realised that he was someone who could be targeted.

Mac Allister was at least partly at fault for the Seagulls’ opening goal, if not mainly to blame, as he failed to come to Virgil van Dijk's slack pass in lethargic fashion, prior to being robbed of possession.

Aside from that high-profile error, he also looked ponderous too many times, even though he grew into the action in the second half, and his lack of pace allowed him to be ghosted past on numerous occasions.

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That has been something we have seen far too often this season – he has picked up three yellow cards, in part because of this – and it has played a part in Liverpool’s midfield continuing to look too open, as was the case in 2022/23.

At the top level, you will be punished by not having an elite defensive midfielder sitting in front of the defence and showcasing his expertise, and the Reds have found that out many times already this season.

It has been like watching City attempt to use Ilkay Gundogan in Rodri’s role for a big chunk of action. It simply wouldn’t work enough for it to be successful week in, week out.

As mentioned, this is not Mac Allister’s fault at all, even though he clearly deserves an element of blame for certain mistakes.


Let's not forget that he was never used that way for Argentina at the World Cup, and Brighton only played him there in extremely sporadic circumstances.

It is vital that Klopp finds a way to return Mac Allister to his preferred 'number eight' position as soon as possible, at least in the more tough-looking fixtures.

If that means playing Wataru Endo more often, so be it. The Japan captain hasn’t exactly set the world alight at Anfield yet, but he is still an upgrade on Mac Allister as a 'number six' and would bring more balance and a natural defensive brain to the midfield.

It could even be that Stefan Bajcetic is ultimately seen as the long-term solution in that position, even if he hasn’t exclusively been used that way to date in his young career.

Either way, playing Mac Allister where he is currently is not working enough to justify keeping things this way moving forward, even though there will be matches when it works.

In order to see the very best of him – the player who helped tear Liverpool apart last season – he needs to be displaying his box-to-box dynamism alongside Szoboszlai, linking neatly with him and others in the final third, and generally displaying his class in a role he knows so well.

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

For now, we are watching a player who looks uncomfortable doing the job he is asked to do, and while he has said he is happy there, it is hard to imagine that he is being completely truthful.

Much of Liverpool’s summer business has to be commended, including signing Mac Allister in the first place, but with each passing difficult fixture that arrives, the more it feels as though not addressing the defensive midfield issue could prove costly for Liverpool.

It is unfair to expect much more than what Mac Allister is giving, and it would be criminal not to get the best out of him.

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