Alexis Mac Allister is Progressing Into Liverpool’s Ideal Midfielder

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Liverpool’s Impressive 3-0 Win Over Nottingham Forest

While Liverpool didn’t have to be at their very best to beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 last weekend, there were a number of decent performances across the team. The whole squad deserves tremendous credit for playing so well in the immediate aftermath of the dreadful news regarding Luis Díaz’ parents.

Dominik Szoboszlai was voted man of the match by supporters after registering his first two assists of the season. As he has already amassed the eighth most Premier League chances created by a Liverpool player since the start of last season (ranking third for midfielders), he’ll set up plenty more goals before 2023/24 is out.

There was also rightly praise for the starting front three against Forest, as they each scored a goal. While no combination of Jürgen Klopp’s current options will ever match the impact that Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah delivered across five seasons, it’s a positive sign that the forwards are all in form.

Cody Gakpo may not have scored – how the linesman couldn’t see he was miles offside for his disallowed goal is a mystery – but by netting at Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday the Dutchman has found the net in his last four Liverpool starts. It’s all good up top for the Reds.

And at the other end of the field, Virgil van Dijk is looking in majestic form, even if sterner tests than what Steve Cooper’s side presented undoubtedly lie in wait.

Photo: IMAGO

Klopp’s Comments on Alexis Mac Allister

Speaking after the match, Klopp highlighted the efforts of Alexis Mac Allister. “I am really pleased for him and [he had] a lot of defensively top moments, really killed the counter and stuff like this,” said the Liverpool manager.

After then talking about how the team works together to ensure space is limited for the opposition, Klopp added: “Then we have just a really creative player in the centre of the park together with Trent in some moments, which is helpful. Very helpful.”

That’s putting it mildly, Jürgen. Mac Allister’s abilities both in defence and attack were beautifully demonstrated in the move for the opening goal. He tackled Murillo then played the ball through to Salah. He in turn teed up Darwin Núñez, and though his shot was saved, Diogo Jota converted the rebound.

Mac Allister’s Consistent Contributions

It’s remarkable how many important goals already this season have featured Mac Allister in the build up, even though he has just the one assist. He played a near identical role as he did against Forest in the opening goal of the season, when Díaz put the Reds 1-0 up at Chelsea after Salah had received the ball from the Argentine.

Mac Allister also contributed in the moves for equalisers against Bournemouth, Tottenham and Brighton, as well as the derby-settling goal when Everton visited Anfield. Add in his assist for the go-ahead goal against West Ham and the value of his efforts only grows.

But if you want a single, eye-catching number from the clash with Forest, we must look to progressive passes. If you’re not a regular user of FBRef, here’s their definition:

“Completed passes that move the ball towards the opponent’s goal line at least 10 yards from its furthest point in the last six passes, or any completed pass into the penalty area. Excludes passes from the defending 40% of the pitch.”

It’s not the most straight forward metric but the important thing to know is that Mac Allister made 17 progressive passes in the Reds’ previous league game, the joint-most by a Liverpool player since the start of last season.

It’s the biggest total for over a year too. Trent Alexander-Arnold completed 17 in the home opener for 2022/23 against Crystal Palace. While his total was arguably more impressive – as Liverpool went down to 10 after Núñez was sent off – the Reds’ possession figure was identical in the two matches, 72 per cent, which makes for a fair comparison.

And if Mac Allister wanted to stake a claim to be the top dog, he could argue that his progressive passes came from a total of 85 attempted, when Alexander-Arnold played 119 against the Eagles.

Photo: IMAGO

Premier League’s Progressive Passing Leaders

There’s no easy to way to discover which Premier League player has recorded the most in a game this season. However, James Maddison made 19 as Tottenham struggled to beat strugglers Sheffield United, and he leads the way in the division with 10.3 per 90 minutes. If he’s the man to beat for consistency and has only reached 17 once, it illustrates how rare playing that many progressive passes must be.

This raises the tantalising prospect of what Mac Allister may be capable if allowed to play further forward for Liverpool. If, say, Wataru Endō could lock down the role of holding midfielder, the Reds’ World Cup winner’s progressive passing ability could flourish closer to the opposition goal. With him on the left and key pass machine Szoboszlai on the right, opposing midfielders and defenders wouldn’t know which way to look.

As Klopp said, that could be helpful. Very helpful.

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