Liverpool’s First Defeat Since October: Title Charge on Hold
Liverpool’s title charge hit a hurdle on Sunday, when they suffered a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Jurgen Klopp’s side really struggled to get going as they put in their most disappointing performance of the season.
However, as poor as Liverpool’s performance was, there were still a few glimmers of promise on an otherwise uninspiring outing. That promise came from Alexis Mac Allister who carried on his impressive run of form for the Reds.
The Argentinian has featured regularly at the base of Klopp’s midfield, especially since the departure of Wataru Endo to the Asian Cup with Japan. Today we’re going to be taking a deeper look at Mac Allister’s impressive performance against the Gunners, whilst also looking at the bigger picture.
Natural Style of Play
Many people questioned whether Mac Allister had the natural traits and style of play to be an effective option at the base of Klopp’s midfield. However, the number ten has proven to be a reliable, yet surprising fit in the German’s tactical direction.
Although he may not have the physicality that has been prominent in the likes of Fabinho and Rodri over recent years, his footballing intelligence and tenacity go hand-in-hand together. Perhaps most importantly, he adds a whole new progressive dimension to Liverpool’s build-up play with 6.41 progressive passes per 90 minutes.
However, perhaps that physical presence is a miss in Liverpool’s games against the other top clubs in the Premier League, especially away from home. The Reds have won just one of their last 10 away visits to the Premier League’s big six, losing five of those.
But it’s important to note that Mac Allister has only featured 25 times for Liverpool, so he is still adapting to the Liverpool system.
His Performance vs Arsenal
Despite Liverpool’s underwhelming performance as a whole, Mac Allister still managed to put in an impressive individual performance. According to SofaScore, Mac Allister achieved the joint-highest match rating, alongside Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli.
The holding midfielder was quality on the ball as always, with 83 touches and 54/60 completed passes with a pass completion rate of 90%. Mac Allister also completed two key passes and completed three accurate long balls.
His defensive performance was also hugely impressive and was largely responsible for any spells of pressure that Liverpool displayed. Mac Allister won the most ground duels in the game with nine, as well as winning two aerial duels. The midfielder also made three tackles, including one crucial last-man tackle to prevent Martinelli from a goal.
Endo or Macca?
With Wataru Endo’s return from the Asia Cup looming, what does that mean for Alexis Mac Allister?
Endo was in brilliant form before his departure for the Asia Cup, but since then Mac Allister has nailed down his place in Klopp’s midfield. Therefore, I believe Mac Allister has done enough to keep his place in the side for the foreseeable.
However, with the ongoing injury concerns of Dominik Szoboszlai and the poor form of Ryan Gravenberch, there could be an opening to fit both players into the starting eleven. That move could see Mac Allister move up to one of the eight positions alongside Curtis Jones, allowing Endo to return to the base of the midfield.
Ultimately, Mac Allister is a much longer-term project than Endo so game time is pivotal to his growth into this Liverpool side. That doesn’t mean that Endo’s game time has to be severely limited, but Klopp has to be careful not to stunt the growth of Mac Allister, if possible.