Alexis Mac Allister: How can Jurgen Klopp make the most of Liverpool’s World Cup winner’s skills in the Carabao Cup final?

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Watch Chelsea vs. Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final live on Sky Sports Football from 2pm on Sunday; kickoff 3pm. Mac Allister didn’t expect to play as a No 6 when he joined, but he has flourished in the role. Now that he’s been pushed more forward, but what’s best for the Reds?

Following his goal against Brentford, Alexis Mac Allister provided two assists as Liverpool defeated Luton 4-1 on Wednesday. It complicates the situation of where Jurgen Klopp ought to start him on Sunday at Wembley.

In that Carabao Cup final, Mac Allister will square off against Moises Caicedo, his old Brighton teammate.

When the two teams faced off in the Premier League at Anfield, Liverpool defeated Caicedo’s Chelsea 4-1 thanks in large part to the Argentina international’s outstanding performance in the midfield battle.

On the last day of January, Mac Allister demonstrated his versatility by leading the team in tackles, taking three shots on goal, and recording a passing accuracy of more than 90%.

After 65 minutes, Caicedo was captivated.

This matchup seemed to confirm the belief that Liverpool had gotten the superior deal in the summer transfer window, having paid Chelsea at least £60 million less for their acquisition of the Seagulls player.

It is even more astonishing that Mac Allister, who was signed at the beginning of June based on his playmaking and attacking metrics at Brighton, where he scored 10 goals in the Premier League the previous season, has performed admirably for the majority of this season at Liverpool in an unfamiliar holding role.

But at the end of July, offers from Saudi Arabia came in for Fabinho and Jordan Henderson and Mac Allister had to adapt. “It was clearly not the idea. But things changed,” said Mac Allister recently. “At the beginning of the season, we didn’t have a proper No 6 so I had to do the job. Jurgen likes it. So I try to do my best and it’s all about helping the team.”

He’s certainly done that. Mac Allister’s impressive performance away at Man City was a rebuttal to critics who suggested his defensive skills would struggle against Pep Guardiola’s creators, while across the season Liverpool average 2.6 goals per game with him involved compared to 1.6 without. When he is there, their win percentage increases by ten points.

His value was highlighted by a knee injury that held him out of seven games in December. Liverpool lost the fluidity he can provide in the middle of the park in their dramatic victory against Crystal Palace and their draws against Manchester United and Arsenal.
Wataru Endo, a more conventional holding midfielder who replaced Mac Allister at number six, settled in during that run and helped Liverpool defeat Newcastle on New Year’s Day to take the top spot in the table. However, Mac Allister’s comeback during Arsenal’s 2-0 FA Cup victory served as a reminder of the South American’s talent.

Prior to the Man City match, Klopp enumerated the qualities he provides to that more advanced role. “Is Macca a six by nature? No. Has football evolved in recent years in ways that we never could have predicted? Indeed. Is it possible for a player such as Macca to play the six? Without a doubt.

“It relies on the team’s overall defense strategy. If we execute it well, we will have a fantastic player in the middle who is able to find passes and think ahead.

“Do you want a player there who is just knocking players down and when we are in possession he thinks ‘not my job, give me a break’?”

When you consider such statements in retrospect, it becomes even more surprising that Klopp decided to demote Mac Allister from that very position after just two games following the victory against Caicedo’s Chelsea.

However, Mac Allister’s change in role has once again been driven by need.

Liverpool has five central midfield players in the treatment room heading into the Carabao Cup final week. In particular, Dominik Szoboszlai’s absence meant Klopp had to find a No. 8 replacement, therefore Mac Allister was pushed forward against Brentford, Luton, and Burnley.

After setting up Virgil van Dijk with an early corner, Mac Allister’s move—which included Endo returning to defensive midfield after his Asian Cup stint—was rewarded with a goal against Brentford on Saturday. Endo crossed for Cody Gakpo to head in against Luton. He responded, “I know what the position means, because I used to play as a No 10 when I was in Argentina,” to a question concerning his perfectly timed run into the box and finish for Liverpool’s second goal in their 4-1 victory in west London.

However, even though there are some benefits, Mac Allister’s new role does cost Liverpool something because it gives him less control over the game as a whole when he starts as a No 8.

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