Liverpool midfielder Alexis Mac Allister has been a key part of their charge for a quadruple in his debut season at Anfield. We look closer at the World Cup winner’s impact.

Alexis Mac Allister was the coolest man in Anfield.

While he was being made to wait, and wait, and wait some more as Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson was treated for the injury caused by his own foul on Darwin Núñez that resulted in a penalty being awarded, the Liverpool midfielder was keeping himself entertained.

Mac Allister could be seen doing keepy-uppies over at the side of the City penalty area, patiently waiting for the call to actually take his kick. More than three minutes passed from referee Michael Oliver awarding it to Mac Allister being allowed to spot the ball.

Just to add to the drama, the former Brighton and Hove Albion man decided to wait a further eight seconds after Oliver blew his whistle before he started his run up, subsequently dispatching the penalty to Ederson’s right to equalise in the biggest game of the Premier League season so far.

Mac Allister was heavily involved in Liverpool’s 1-1 draw against Man City that left the title race finely balanced on Sunday, having more shots than anyone else in the game (four), the most shots on target (two), winning the most fouls (three), and attempting more passes in the opposition half than any other Liverpool player (37), while no one made more than his four tackles and only teammate Jarell Quansah won possession as many times (11) in the game.

It was the latest impressive performance in a run of form that has seen the 25-year-old become a key part of Liverpool’s quadruple charge this season.

When Liverpool signed him from Brighton for a reported fee of £35 million last June, we suggested Mac Allister would fit Jürgen Klopp’s side like a glove.

It wasn’t an ideal start for him at Anfield, though. He was sent off in just his second appearance, a 3-1 win over Bournemouth. The red card was later overturned but that didn’t make up for the ignominy of seeing his home debut cut short before the hour mark.

Mac Allister was also in a different role to the one he predominantly played at Brighton, as the lone six in Klopp’s midfield three. He had sometimes played as a defensive midfielder under Graham Potter and briefly did so in the early weeks of Roberto De Zerbi’s tenure at the Amex Stadium.

“I wanted to kill him… but that’s part of football,” Mac Allister diplomatically said about Potter playing him deeper in an interview in October 2022, though added: “He was very helpful – improving my versatility and physicality. I’m a much better player today because of it.”

What was initially Brighton’s gain is now Liverpool’s. Mac Allister’s well-roundedness is one of the things that stands out about him, and why Klopp felt he was ideal for the six role in his side earlier this season.

After playing there against Brighton in October, Mac Allister told “I like it [playing as a six]. I’ve said it many times, for me it’s easy to say, ‘No, it’s not my position and I do the best I can.’ But it’s not like that. Jürgen is playing me there; he is giving me his support and I try to do the best I can.

“I think I improved a lot in the last couple of years defensively and I think it’s a job that I can do very well. I feel good and I feel that my teammates and the coaching staff are supporting me. That’s important.”

While he had found himself a place in Liverpool’s team and was starting to earn solid reviews for his performances, Mac Allister was moved into his familiar position as an eight once Wataru Endo returned from the Asian Cup at the start of February. In the 4-1 win at Brentford last month, he raced through to score just his second goal for the club and first from inside the penalty area, suggesting he had already gotten to grips with being back in a more attacking role.

Speaking a few days after the victory at the Gtech Community Stadium, Klopp said: “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 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.”

As you can see from the touch zone map below, since his recent move from a six to an eight (after the 3-1 loss at Arsenal on 5 February) Mac Allister’s touches have been more spread out across the pitch. He is having more touches in the opposition penalty box and in wide areas, and it seems to have taken his influence up another level.

Mac Allister touch zone map before-after 9 Feb

As we noted last June, in Mac Allister’s last season at Brighton he was a monster at winning possession in the first part of the campaign (pre-2022 World Cup), doing so on average 8.9 times per 90 minutes. That reduced to just 4.9 per 90 after the World Cup as he was expected to be more expansive and focused on attack.

With Liverpool, he has averaged 6.6 possession wins per 90, suggesting Klopp is finding a hybrid version of the two Mac Allister’s from his time with the Seagulls. It has gone down from 7.1 to 5.4 per 90 since his move to a more advanced role last month.

He is making nine extra passes per 90 at Liverpool in this year’s Premier League (65.2) than he did at Brighton last season (56.2), with a marginally higher completion rate (87.5% to 87.2%). He is largely doing so in pressured circumstances; Mac Allister has been pressured on the ball – a defensive action in which a player whose team is out of possession moves to close down an opposing player in possession – more often than any other Liverpool player in the Premier League this season (544) while only 15 players in the whole league have been pressured more.

His ability to stay calm under that pressure – not just when taking penalties – has been a key feature of Klopp’s revamped midfield. Of players to attempt at least 1,000 passes in the Premier League this season, only eight have a shorter average distance to the nearest opponent than Mac Allister’s 3.2 metres.

Mac Allister has been involved in 148 open-play attacking sequence involvements in all competitions, with the five teammates ahead of him all either playing consistently as a forward or an attacking midfielder. His 86 involvements in the build-up to a shot is the most of any other midfielder.

Liverpool ASI 23-24 March

In terms of his own off-the-ball work, he’s getting used to Klopp’s beloved counter pressures, with only Dominik Szoboszlai (187) and Mohamed Salah (172) making more than his 145 in the Premier League for Liverpool this season.

Mac Allister had almost become the forgotten man of Klopp’s midfield rebuild earlier in the season. Szoboszlai and Ryan Gravenberch both made impressive starts to their Anfield careers before form and injury curtailed them somewhat, while Endo overcame a difficult initial period to become a vital part of the team. Mac Allister’s first goal for the club didn’t arrive until December, but it was worth waiting for as he scored in the 4-3 home win over Fulham from all of 25 yards.

Klopp has shown his faith in Mac Allister, who has played the fourth most minutes of any player for Liverpool in all competitions this season. That says something about the squad’s injury issues considering the Argentina international missed almost a month (six games) with a leg injury sustained in the 2-0 win at Sheffield United in early December.

Liverpool most minutes all comps 23-24

Below are his heat maps from the away game at Manchester City in November and the home draw with them last weekend. While City were more dangerous in attack and had more of the ball in the first game, you can see the difference between Mac Allister’s roles in the two games.

Mac Allister heat map v Man City away
Mac Allister heat map v Man City home

If he can continue to influence games in this more advanced role at the same time as Endo shines as a six and Szoboszlai returns to full fitness – with Curtis Jones and Gravenberch coming back from respective injuries – Liverpool’s midfield will be in a very healthy state for what promises to be a tense end to the season. Klopp will also be assured in the closing weeks of his Liverpool tenure that he can rely on him to play whatever role required to an elite standard.

It’ll surely be a nerve-racking run-in, but Mac Allister will probably just go off and do keepy-uppies while everyone else bites their fingernails.

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