As he overcomes early doubts over his ability in the No. 6 role, Alexis Mac Allister appears to have now successful adapted to the position at Liverpool.
There was widespread disbelief among Liverpool supporters when it was reported late last summer that the club were no longer seeking to strengthen their options in holding midfield.
The Reds may have just brought in Wataru Endo from Bundesliga strugglers Stuttgart, but he appeared to be little more than a £16 million stopgap after the failure to sign Moises Caicedo.
And that feeling was only magnified by what was a mixed start to life as a lone anchor for Alexis Mac Allister, who it was assumed would eventually return to a more natural advanced role.
In this context, Liverpool’s claims that they would not sign a No. 6 even when January came around felt like misdirection, particularly in light of erroneous links to Andre Trindade of Fluminense.
However, six months on, that stance and their inaction in the mid-season window appears to have been entirely justified.
Strong in the tackle and calm on the ball, the Japan international showed all the qualities needed to thrive in this Liverpool team – and even chipped in with the odd goal.
In fact, Endo’s standing was so enhanced by that festive stint in the team that his departure to the Asian Cup felt like a blow in a way few could have expected at the start of the campaign.
Of course, as much as his emergence helped in a difficult period, the success of Liverpool’s holding midfield gamble still rested on Mac Allister’s adaptation to an unfamiliar role.
Fortunately, if Sunday afternoon’s win over Bournemouth and recent form are anything to go by, it looks likely to prove roaring success.
The Argentine’s quality on the ball has never been in doubt and, though he gets fewer chances to shoot or assist in a deeper position, he continues to underline his brilliance in possession.
He ranks in the 98th percentile of Premier League midfielders for goal creating actions (defined as the two offensive actions that lead to a goal) from open play, with an average of 0.45 per 90 minutes.
And that ability to get the ball into dangerous areas is also evidenced by an average of 5.14 passes into the final third per 90 this season.
Still, those early doubts over his use in the No. 6 related to the defensive aspects of the game, so how is he stacking up on that front?
Well, an average of 4.61 tackles and interceptions per 90 puts him in the top eight percent of all Premier League midfielders, while only two percent have bettered his 2.34 blocks per 90.
Not bad for a player considered to be playing out of position.
These numbers and Sunday’s performance suggest that, much like Fabinho before him, Mac Allister is ready to make Liverpool’s holding midfield role his own after coming through a six-month-long period of adaptation.
And that they have carved out a lead in the Premier League title race while that acclimatisation has been ongoing does not bode particularly well for their rivals.