Right now, Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister looks like the prime candidate to be Liverpool’s first summer signing.
Fabrizio Romano reported on Tuesday that the Reds have ‘almost agreed’ personal terms with the player, and will be able to activate a release clause in his Brighton deal. As such, they are ‘big favorites’ to win the race.
So what will the Argentinean bring to Anfield if he arrives? Mac Allister has scored 10 goals and provided two assists so far this season, but both of those figures are somewhat deceptive.
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To begin with the goals, six of them have come from the penalty spot, so you would expect his numbers to drop at Anfield, where Mohamed Salah is the number one taker.
On the flip side, though, he’s actually more creative than his meager assist tally suggests.
Jürgen Klopp recently pointed out (via Liverpool’s official website) that Salah ‘very often’ plays the ‘second or third-last pass’, an ‘important’ but often overlooked playmaking contribution.
We described that as Salah’s secret weapon, and intriguingly, it’s a strength that Mac Allister shares. To demonstrate, we’re going to take a look at the goals this season where the Argentine has supplied the penultimate pass, or the ‘hockey assist’.
A couple of them don’t bear much consideration. There was one in a 2-2 draw away to Leicester when he threaded a relatively simple ball to Pervis Estupiñán, who subsequently set up a long-range curler for Kaoru Mitoma.
And we won’t look at the short pass he played to Estupiñán in the 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace either, because the left-back was the true architect of the goal with his subsequent cross.
But let’s get into the more interesting examples:
West Ham 0-2 Brighton, 21 August, Leandro Trossard goal (0-2, 66′) — Here, Mac Allister received the ball on the halfway line and produced an incisive ball to Pascal Groß in between Declan Rice and Tomáš Souček. The German was then able to flick it around the corner to Trossard, who raced through to score, but it was Mac Allister who had truly unlocked the defense from what at first looked like a harmless position.
Brighton 5-2 Leicester, 4 September, Leandro Trossard goal (3-2, 64′) — This time, the 24-year-old pounced on a loose ball ahead of James Maddison, and then poked it to Groß before Wilfried Ndidi could get there. Once again, Groß worked it on to Trossard, who dispatched it beyond Danny Ward. The technical skill and tenacity of Mac Allister had been key.
Incidentally, he would score twice later in the game to make sure of the victory, including one magnificent free-kick.
Argentina 2-1 Australia, 3 December, Lionel Messi goal (1-0, 35′) — Switching focus to international football now, and Mac Allister linked up neatly with World Cup player of the tournament Lionel Messi in a group stage victory over Argentina. He dropped to give Messi an option and then delayed his pass to Nicolás Otamendi, spotting that he’d managed to remain onside, allowing the forward to drift infield from the flank. Otamendi subsequently laid it off to Messi, who put his side ahead.
Leeds 2-2 Brighton, 11 March, Solly March goal (1-2, 61′) — After receiving the ball from midfield partner Moisés Caicedo, Mac Allister swiftly turned away from Tyler Adams, and then managed to hold off both the American and Crysencio Summerville before shifting it wide to Mitoma. The winger would then dragged it down the line and fire it across the box, with March able to bundle it home.
These goals show that Mac Allister’s ability to beat a man, his vision and his awareness make him an under-the-radar playmaking threat. Feeding higher-quality teammates at Anfield next season, he could be devastatingly effective, as Messi and others have already found.