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How No. 6 signing can push Alexis Mac Allister to greater heights at Liverpool

It was a debut campaign to savour for Alexis Mac Allister, who was perhaps Liverpool’s player of the season despite being moved around in midfield.

The Argentine arrived at Anfield back in June having been an integral cog in a Brighton side that once again surpassed expectations to finish just five points behind Liverpool in 2022/23.

Dominik Szoboszlai stole the headlines in the early weeks of the season, but it was Mac Allister who ended his first year on Merseyside with the lion’s share of the plaudits.

He did so despite having to cover at the base of the Reds’ midfield for much of the campaign, his importance to the side moving forward is now unquestionable.

Alexis Mac Allister, 2023/24

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 40 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 6
Unused sub: 4
Goals: 7
Assists: 7
Overall Season Rating: 8.42

 

The early glimpses

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 13, 2023: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mac Allister signed at the very beginning of the summer, with very little secret being made of the club’s admiration for him in the days leading up to his unveiling.

I remember my one main takeaway from Stamford Bridge on the opening day was that we had a player on our hands, even if his role in the side was yet to fully be determined.

The World Cup winner’s eye-catching first appearance in red was followed by the first of many bemusing refereeing decisions in 2023/24, when his afternoon was cut short by Thomas Bramall an hour into his first Anfield outing.

That red card was subsequently overturned, allowing him to pick up where he left off with a string of promising showings throughout August and September.

Wataru Endo took a little time to adjust to life in England, leaving Jurgen Klopp to call upon Mac Allister to anchor his midfield three in the early stages of the season.

Once the Japan captain began to get to grips with the rigours of the Premier League, Mac Allister was unleashed further up the pitch as an out-and-out midfielder, where we truly began to get a glimpse of what he is capable of.

 

Restricted by circumstance

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 31, 2024: Liverpool's Wataru End? (L) and Alexis Mac Allister celebrate after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

By the time Endo departed to the Asian Cup in January, the 25-year-old had established himself as a regular on the teamsheet, but his absence saw Liverpool’s No. 10 take his spot as the first-team squad’s only other capable defensive midfielder available.

Japan’s premature exit was welcome news for the Reds, with Endo returning to the side for February’s 3-1 win at home to Burnley, which kicked off a run of eight league starts in the next 10.

It is no coincidence, then, that February also marked the time Mac Allister came into his own and sprinted towards the front in the race to be recognised as Liverpool’s player of the season.

The World Cup winner was imperious from that point on, becoming one of few players to come away from the stretch which saw the Reds collapse on three fronts with full credit remaining in the bank.

Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Sheffield United at the Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Thursday, Apr. 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

What we have seen from him when set free in the No. 8 position has undoubtedly whet the appetite for what we could expect if Liverpool dip into the market for a new No. 6 this summer.

Mac Allister scored four goals and supplied five assists in that run with Endo back in the side.

Endo coped admirably with the job handed to him throughout 2023/24 and will almost certainly continue to play a role as Arne Slot looks to fulfil his own ambitions with this side.

But it is difficult to argue that Mac Allister’s game intelligence and technical ability wouldn’t be put to best use as an out-and-out midfielder in this next era of the football club.

 

What next under Slot?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 18, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The rare moments in which he found himself exposed came almost exclusively when protecting the back four.

He was caught in possession twice at Villa Park during the final away trip of the campaign, both instances leading to goals for the hosts.

The 25-year-old has faced sporadic struggles while facing his own goal on the edge of the box, though some would argue Alisson has at times done him no favours with his deliveries towards tight spaces.

While there is little disputing that he is more than capable at No. 6, one of Slot’s first priorities may be to find a specialist to allow the Argentine to really tap into his seemingly limitless potential.

We could well see Mac Allister operate in a two as part of the 4-2-3-1 the Dutchman has been known to deploy at Feyenoord, and lining up alongside a more defensive-minded colleague could well be the making of him and the best of both worlds.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 21, 2024: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister (L) and captain Virgil van Dijk celebrate after the FA Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage. Liverpool won 3-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The two game-changers of the Klopp era – Virgil van Dijk and Alisson – once again stood up and were counted during the manager’s farewell lap around the sun, providing ample competition for the title of the Reds’ main man of 2023/24.

I’m giving it to Mac Allister, largely because with and without the positional mitigation, he has been consistency personified at a time when many others have experienced all manner of ups and downs with regards to their own form.

The sky is the limit for the man who already has football’s biggest prize on his mantlepiece, let’s see what he and Arne have in store for one another.


Best moment: Scoring Liverpool’s goal of the season at home to Fulham.

Worst moment: Incorrect red card against Bournemouth on his Anfield debut.

Role next season First midfield name on the teamsheet.