How Alexis Mac Allister's positional change has made him one of Liverpool's most important players

  • Liverpool beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 at the City Ground on Saturday
  • Alexis Mac Allister was one of the game's standout performers
  • The Argentine has been pulling the strings for the Reds amid an injury crisis
Alexis Mac Allister has been sensational in recent weeks
Alexis Mac Allister has been sensational in recent weeks / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

It felt like a season-defining moment for Liverpool at the City Ground.

As the sand rapidly slipped through the hourglass, the Reds were set to be the first side to blink in a tantalising Premier League title race. Arsenal and Manchester City looked on with great interest, the game still goalless between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon with seconds remaining.

But it was Liverpool that would enjoy the last laugh in the Midlands, with a substitute once again proving Jurgen Klopp's saviour. Darwin Nunez's deft header found the far corner in the 99th minute, providing the Reds with a vital three points as they maintained their lead at the summit of the Premier League table.

While the chaotic Uruguayan will steal the headlines - alongside the controversy surrounding Liverpool's dramatic winner - it was Alexis Mac Allister's inviting cross that helped the Reds secure all three points.

The Argentine kept the ball alive in the final third in the ninth minute of stoppage time, floating an accurate ball towards Nunez on the penalty spot that the 24-year-old nodded home with precision. It capped what was another commanding and match-defining display from the World Cup-winning midfielder, whose potential has been unlocked by a positional tweak in recent weeks.

Darwin Nunez
Mac Allister set up Nunez's winner / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Mac Allister didn't make the sharpest start to his Liverpool career following a £35m summer move from Brighton, with the 25-year-old forced to play a slightly unorthodox role during his first months on Merseyside.

The summer recruit was fielded as a holding midfielder by Klopp, playing the number six role with varying degrees of success on a weekly basis. While he had played in a deeper central role at the Amex Stadium, he had often done so alongside the tough-tackling Moises Caicedo, who enabled Mac Allister to operate in more offensive spaces.

However, the incredible performances of Wataru Endo since late 2023 have allowed Klopp to move Mac Allister into a more advanced role. He's still expected to do his share of defensive work - an underrated aspect of his game - but he can be far more influential in the opposition half.

While it was Joe Gomez at the base of midfield against Forest instead of Endo, Mac Allister still exhibited his measured best against the Midlands side. "The goal was set up by a guy who was the calmest on the whole pitch," said Klopp after the match, a perfect assessment of why the Argentina international was so vital at the City Ground.

Against Nino Espirito Santo's side, Mac Allister was the man pulling the strings for Liverpool. He created more chances (six) than any other player on the pitch, as well as producing more passes into the final third (eight) than any other midfielder bar Gomez (nine).

He finished the game with one expected assist - which he got in the dying embers - 0.8 more than any other player at the City Ground. Several times in a cagey first half, it was Mac Allister's scooped balls beyond the Forest backline that created openings for the Reds against a spirited defensive unit.

Alexis Mac Allister, Virgil van Dijk
Mac Allister looks more comfortable further up the pitch / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

This was not an isolated display from Mac Allister, who now has three assists and a goal in his last four starts. He's slowly become one of Liverpool's most crucial assets, especially given the long, long injury list that Klopp must contend with at present.

Rewind to Liverpool's previous Premier League match, where they found themselves a goal down at home to Luton Town at half time, and Mac Allister was once again one of the key orchestrators of his side's comeback victory.

He finished the match with two assists against the Hatters, created four chances, made five passes into the final third and had a game-high 0.44 of expected assists. When Liverpool needed him to be the creative force up against another low defensive block, the former Brighton man rose to the occasion.

Mac Allister still tops the Liverpool squad rankings for successful tackles (1.8) and interceptions (1.4) per 90, but his ability to dovetail between a holding midfield and box-to-box role makes him indispensable to Klopp, with his attacking displays having been crucial to the Reds without the likes of Darwin Nunez, Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai and Diogo Jota in recent weeks.

While Liverpool's youngsters have earned justifiable praise in recent weeks as game-changers for the Reds, Mac Allister's calming presence and attacking influence in the engine room has been essential to the club's incredible run of form.