No one needs to tell Liverpool supporters where the greatest problem lay in Jurgen Klopp's side last season. After all, the entire summer of 2022 was dominated by talk of Aurelien Tchouameni and Jude Bellingham. Ultimately, the only midfielder to arrive was Arthur Melo, a disastrous loan addition from Juventus who ended up with more minutes in the Premier League 2 youth division than Premier League one for grown-ups. A midfield that used to act as a bulwark ahead of Virgil van Dijk became, in the worst months of Liverpool's season, a concierge service to escort the likes of Piotr Zielinski and Ilkay Gundogan into the best seats in the house.
Creative solutions have eased the pressure and offered hope for the long term. Curtis Jones appears to be fulfilling his rich potential while Trent Alexander-Arnold has inverted more frequently as the campaign has worn on; having one of the Premier League's outstanding creators at the heart of the team could surely be effective for Liverpool. Ultimately however, fresh blood is required to replace the outgoing James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, who it is understood is wanted by clubs in Turkey. Then there is the matter of lowering the age profile of a position where Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson will all be in their 30s come October.
The solution, at least part of it, is Alexis Mac Allister. The Argentine today completed one of the first major transfers of the summer this week, Liverpool having long since established themselves as front runners for perhaps the best player in Brighton's run to the Europa League and one of the most important cogs in Argentina's World Cup triumph. He was not without other admirers in the Premier League and the Reds moved swiftly to negotiate the complexities of the not-quite release clause the Seagulls had placed in Mac Allister's contract. The eventual fee for his services is believed to be worth in excess of £40 million, including add ons, with the 24 year old signing a five year contract at Anfield.
Even at what looks like a knockdown price in the current market, Liverpool would expect a lot for their money. They may well get it. What makes Mac Allister such a valuable addition for a team that need a lot of strengthening in one position is just how many midfielders he can be.
Not since Georginio Wijnaldum's early years at the club has Klopp had a midfielder who can weigh in with half a dozen or more goals in a Premier League season. Mac Allister has that this season, though six of his 10 have come from the penalty spot. Still, he averages 0.24 non-penalty expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes, across the course of the season, that is an extremely healthy return to go alongside his 0.13 expected assists. Profiling as someone who has a direct hand in a goal every other game is impressive indeed for any midfielder, on a par with the likes of Martin Odegaard. Over the last four seasons, only one Liverpool midfielder averages more than two shots per game, the infrequently spotted Oxlade-Chamberlain. In 2022-23 and 2021-22, Mac Allister averaged more than 2.5.
To which the counter-argument might be, Liverpool have never particularly needed shots from midfield. At their best (even after Thiago was added to the team), Klopp's triumvirate in the center of the pitch were rather more focused on winning the ball back and enabling the front three and the full backs to do the creative heavy lifting. If similar is required then Mac Allister has proven he can deliver. He wouldn't be a ball winner in front of the back four a la prime Fabinho but he ranks in the Premier League's top 20 for possession won in the final third, top 40 in the middle third. Under De Zerbi, Mac Allister has sat in the two-man midfield base alongside Caicedo almost as frequently as he has been pushed forward, trusted to win the ball back and build play.
Below is Mac Allister's passing sonar, showing the direction in which he tends to pass the ball, how long they are and the rate in which he completes them. With how wide Liverpool tend to play, his ability to successfully get the ball into advanced positions on the wing could be just what Liverpool need.
Need Mac Allister to be a table setter, Thiago style? No problem. He is extremely effective at advancing Brighton up the field, ranking in the top 20 Premier League players for completed passes into the final third per 90, but averages less than 1.5 possession turnovers per game. He tends not to fire the ball far and wide but then Liverpool would have Alexander-Arnold and Thiago for that.
In both Tchouameni and particularly Bellingham, Liverpool found themselves enamored with do-it-all midfielders whose varied skillset would allow Klopp to mold them into whatever he needed, perhaps from game to game. Both those players, perhaps the two best young midfielders in the world game, may well ultimately end up paired together at Real Madrid. Unsurprisingly, there are very few other options out there that can do it all. Beyond a pure destroyer, Mac Allister ticks every box. Considering his star turn with Argentina at the World Cup, it is also fair to assume that the bright lights of Anfield will not inspire dread in him.
After a season that, for all the impressive games in the late rally, will ultimately go down as one of calamity, Liverpool need a lot. One midfielder won't solve all the problems in Klopp's engine room. It would help, however, if the first one through the door can deal with quite a few of them. If anyone available to Liverpool can, it might just be Mac Allister.