Liverpool’s transfer market intent last summer was clear in the four signings they made. All four new additions were made with the midfield in mind. Jurgen Klopp set out to rebuild his unit in the centre of the pitch as Dominik Szoboszlai, Ryan Gravenberch and Wataru Endo pitched up at Anfield. It was the capture of Alexis Mac Allister, though, that prompted the most discussion.
For Argentina and Brighton, Mac Allister had earned a reputation for himself as a versatile and highly effective attacking midfielder. For Liverpool, though, he has most commonly operated at the base of the midfield. In the absence of a natural number six, Mac Allister has performed the role for his new team.
At first, it seemed Mac Allister was only playing in this position as a stop-gap solution. The consensus was that Liverpool would eventually move for a more natural number six once they have the transfer budget to do so, possibly at the end of the 2023/24 season. Mac Allister, however, is playing so well Klopp might now be having second thoughts about that plan.
On the ball, Mac Allister has been an upgrade on Fabinho. The Argentine is exceptional at picking passes from deep and has provided Liverpool with another reliable supply line into the likes of Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez in the attack. This was evident in Sunday’s 4-0 demolition of Bournemouth.
“He’s an incredibly smart player. Incredibly smart,” said Klopp. “As long as you can create a compact formation mark he is an outstanding six. You can all tell me what you want, but he is an outstanding six on the ball – better than all sixes as you can imagine – and against the ball he’s just really strong.”
Klopp has used Mac Allister’s ability on the ball to give Liverpool more control in the middle of the pitch with Trent Alexander-Arnold frequently pushed into that area from right back to make the Reds even more difficult to play against. Opponents might be able to press one of the two pass-masters, but not both.
Defensively, Mac Allister is also proving his worth as a number six for Liverpool this season. His tackling and interception numbers are actually stronger than Fabinho’s were in the Premier League last season. Mac Allister might not be a conventional midfield destroyer, but he still provides a barrier in front of the back four.
“Is Macca a natural born number six? No,” Klopp said about Mac Allister and his quality as a midfield anchor in another interview. “Did football develop in the last years in directions we couldn’t imagine before? Yes. Does that mean that a player like Macca can play the number six? Definitely.”
Not many expected Liverpool to challenge for the Premier League title this season after such a large rebuild in last summer’s transfer window. However, all four of Liverpool’s new midfield additions have settled quickly, even in the case of Endo who has provided depth over the course of the season.
Szoboszlai has given Liverpool a different attacking dimension from midfield with some fans comparing the Hungarian to Steven Gerrard in the way he likes to get forward as often as possible. Gravenberch has also demonstrated his talent as a mobile and incredibly talented box-to-box operator.
Mac Allister, though, has been one of Liverpool’s most influential players this season and is growing in prominence with almost every match he plays for the Reds at the moment. Few imagined he would find a role at Anfield as a number six, but Klopp was able to see Mac Allister for his potential in that position.