Alexis Mac Allister was not making his Premier League debut on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, but it was his Liverpool competitive debut. Throw in he was being asked to play an unfamiliar No. 6 role and his solid performance looks even better.
The World Cup winner showed his wide range of passing abilities as best he could from deep in the midfield. This was most evident on Liverpool’s first goal where it was Mac Allister who put the ball on a frozen rope to Mohamed Salah who did the rest from there.
This kind of ball placement from deep in the midfield is not something normally seen from the likes of Fabinho or Stefan Bajcetic.
Mac Allister also found himself getting stuck in to a few tackles to win possession back for his side. The defensive side of the game might not be the most natural for him, but with Chelsea dominating possession he had plenty of practice with it.
One fear for fans and pundits of playing Mac Allister so deep was it would prevent him from contributing to the attack like we know he can.
However, during the match at Stamford Bridge the Argentine completed 13 carries of at least 5 meters. The next highest for the Reds was 9 such carries. Mac Allister was still finding ways to drive the side forward, just in a new way.
While there was a lot of good shown from Mac Allister, it was clear he was playing in an unnatural spot for him. The Blues were targeting down the wings before cutting back inside which stretched the Liverpool side including Mac Allister.
He was caught playing catch-up on a few occasions, but it was nothing catastrophic.
Alongside him, fellow debutant Dominik Szoboszlai played a more box-to-box role then he is probably used to as well. The Hungarian definitely held his own as he was routinely sticking into tackles and had a few blocks of his own.
The Reds did not pay £95 million to bring these two in to play deep in the midfield. Jurgen Klopp will want to get them forward as much as he can as they both have the ability to unlock any defense.
As the focus turns towards the Bournemouth match on Saturday, it is likely Mac Allister will be asked to step into the 6 role once again.
Thiago and Bajcetic have been back training and could contend for a spot, but my guess is Klopp gives his No. 10 a second run out deep in the midfield.
With an opportunity to continue meshing into the role, the former Brighton man should be more comfortable as he builds chemistry with those around him.
It is also likely the Reds will dominate possession against the Cherries so he should see more time on the ball and spend less time chasing down opposing attackers. This should benefit him greatly.
While Mac Allister is not the long-term solution to the defensive midfield hole, he is a more than capable stopgap. However, to truly see the best of his game he will have to be moved slightly up the field.
Until that time comes, the tenacious and technical prowess from Mac Allister should ease some of the concerns until the cavalry finally arrives. Liverpool’s early season returns depend on it.