Mac Allister the perfect midfielder for Liverpool in the post-Klopp era

Sport

Liverpool knew they were getting a good player in Alexis Mac Allister, but not this good a player. The midfielder had shone for Brighton and was part of the Argentina team that won the 2022 World Cup. His quality was proven. As a Liverpool player, though, Mac Allister has reached a higher level.

Victory over Brighton on Sunday, coupled with the 0-0 draw between Manchester City and Arsenal, lifted Jurgen Klopp’s team into top spot in the Premier League table. Despite several injuries to key players, many now view Liverpool as the favourites to win the title in Klopp’s farewell season.

This season was expected to be a transitional season largely due to the midfield rebuild that happened at Anfield last summer. Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all left Liverpool as Wataru Endo, Ryan Gravenberch, Dominik Szoboszlai and Mac Allister arrived.

Endo, Gravenberch and Szoboszlai have all demonstrated their ability at various points of the season, but none of them have had the sustained influence of Mac Allister. If Liverpool win the Premier League title this season, it will be in no small part due to the impact of the Argentinean on Merseyside.

“Alexis is exactly the player I hoped he would be; super-influential, super-smart, great guy. [He] loves playing for Liverpool as well, which is really important,” said Klopp about Mac Allister. “He’s a rhythm-giver, he’s a difference-maker, [he] can control moments of the game. [He is] always there, always involved, nothing is too much for him, he’s really a top, top, top player. But we had that sense when we signed him and he fulfilled all our expectations and more.”

Not only is Mac Allister the driving force behind Liverpool’s title challenge this season, he is the perfect midfielder to carry the Reds into the post-Klopp era. He will be one of the bridges that helps Liverpool make the transition from the German coach to whatever comes next after he departs Anfield this summer.

Xabi Alonso’s decision to stay at Bayer Leverkusen has left Liverpool in the lurch. The Spaniard was widely believed to be the club’s first choice to succeed Klopp, but Alonso has committed to at least another season at his current employers in the Bundesliga. It’s not yet clear who will take over at Anfield once Klopp is gone.

On the evidence of the names that have been linked with the Liverpool job, though, they want a manager in a similar mould to Alonso. Ruben Amorim and Roberto De Zerbi are believed to be on the club’s shortlist and both – like Alonso – favour a possession-orientated approach. All three managers are known to use a back three with wing backs too. There is significant overlap between them.

For the majority of Klopp’s tenure, Liverpool have played a fast and furious brand of football that has often bypassed the centre of the pitch. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were the Reds’ creators in the full back positions. Players like Fabinho and Henderson were picked for their energy rather than their use of possession.

Mac Allister is different. His vision makes him a natural creator. His technical ability means he can operate in every position in the centre of the pitch – the Argentine has been deployed by Klopp at the base of Liverpool’s midfield unit for much of the season. Amorim and De Zerbi, should either of them take over at Anfield, would inherit a player in their own mould.

This summer presents Liverpool with a crossroads. Klopp has defined the club’s recent history, but the Reds must choose a new direction. Whichever route they take, though, Liverpool already have an important part of their future in place. Mac Allister will be the common thread for the Anfield side.

Author: Mark Hayes