After Liverpool sealed their first signing of the summer by recruiting Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton & Hove Albion, football writer Andrew Beasley takes an analytical look at what the midfielder will bring.
Reds fans will know plenty about World Cup winner Mac Allister as the Argentinian faced their side on six occasions while he was with the Seagulls and made 98 Premier League appearances for the south-coast club.
But there are lots of ways in which the 24-year-old has proven himself to be an elite midfielder so it’s worth taking a closer look at the different strengths he will bring to Jürgen Klopp’s squad.
For instance, Opta Joe revealed Mac Allister was the only player in the 2022-23 Premier League (who recorded at least 1,000 minutes) to average at least two shots, two tackles and 50 passes per 90 minutes.
Part of why he records good numbers in these different aspects of play is that he is so tactically versatile.
In guiding Argentina to their 2022 World Cup title, head coach Lionel Scaloni used three different formations. Mac Allister featured in all of them, as he started all but the first game of the tournament.
The Liverpool new boy was used on the left of the midfield in a 4-4-2 system, or also in that position when Scaloni opted for a 4-3-3 or 5-3-2 formation.
His use by Brighton was even more varied in 2022-23. At the start of this season, under Graham Potter, Mac Allister was often found as a central midfielder in Brighton’s 3-4-3 or 4-2-3-1 formations.
Roberto De Zerbi continued in similar fashion when he first took charge of the club but later pushed him further forward into the centre of the attacking midfield trio in his 4-2-3-1 system. Liverpool’s new No.10 was playing the ‘number 10 role’, behind the striker.
This helps explain how Mac Allister was the Premier League’s top player in a vital part of the pitch last season. The central zone directly in front of the opposition penalty box is often referred to as Zone 14, and the Argentinian both received and played more passes in that area than any other player in the division.
This shows his ability to find space in tight areas but also that he can pick a pass. Only nine players completed more through balls (defined as passes sent between backline defenders into open space) than Mac Allister, and seven of those represented the five clubs who finished above Brighton in the league table.
By playing an attacking role, he was also able to regularly take aim at goal. Mac Allister had the 14th-most shots in the Premier League last season, and though he was lower in the standings for goal attempts per 90 minutes, most of the players above him were forwards rather than fellow midfielders.
One standout statistic from last season was that Brighton had more shots on target than any other team in the top flight and Mac Allister had the second-most for them, behind Solly March. The Argentinian’s shot accuracy more than doubled on previous seasons, a sign of his progression.
And speaking of progression, in a different sense, the former Argentinos Juniors man is excellent at carrying the ball up the field and making productive use of it when he does.
Mac Allister ranked ninth in the division for carries completed into the final third of the pitch last term. He made 22 of at least five metres which led to him either having a shot or creating a chance for a teammate – this total would have put him third in the Liverpool rankings for 2022-23, behind only Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez.
It’s also important to be good without the ball. Liverpool should have no concerns regarding Mac Allister’s ability to contribute to their famed counter-press.
He was in the Premier League’s leading 25 players for ball recoveries in the final third per 90 minutes last season and top 20 for across the whole field.
Only Liverpool and Manchester City averaged more possession than Brighton, so Mac Allister would have had fewer opportunities than many other players to recover the ball. And he was then successful with 84 per cent of his passes once he had regained possession.
“I’ve played almost in every position! And I think the managers who worked with me know that I can do it everywhere if they need me,” Mac Allister told Liverpoolfc.com of his versatility. “I’m a team player and I will try to bring that to this club.”