Brighton & Hove Albion’s approach in the transfer market has certainly raised some eyebrows partly due to their willingness to grab players that are under the radar. They usually prefer ‘caterpillars’ to replace their ‘butterflies’ who have developed from the initial stages under their watchful eyes. One of those players who is transitioning into the butterfly stage is Alexis Mac Allister. Signed from Argentinos Juniors back in January 2019, he is now a fan favorite among the Seagulls faithful.
While Mac Allister is a key part of Potter’s plans, he did not have it easy once he signed up for the club. Mac Allister was unable to get the work permit, so he stayed with Argentinos Juniors till the end of the season and spent the next six months playing for one of the country’s biggest clubs – Boca Juniors, where he stole the spotlight.
Interestingly, his father – Carlos Mac Allister, was a footballer himself and played with Argentina’s greatest – Diego Maradona in the famous blue and white stripes. His brothers also play the sport professionally, so it’s no wonder that he has got the footballing genes as well. Now wearing Albion’s number 10 shirt with pride, the Argentinian is brimming with confidence and is a regular in Potter’s dynamic approach.
Alexis Mac Allister’s profile
Mac Allister started as a number 10, drifting between the lines. He shone during Argentina’s 2020 CONMEBOL pre-Olympic tournament where he was the second highest goal scorer with 4 goals as the system was centered around him. His ability to create chances and score goals undoubtedly grabbed attention.
Nevertheless, it usually takes time to adapt in the Premier League and that happened to Mac Allister as well. Moreover, the pandemic stuck just when he was settling into the surroundings, which made matters worse. As a result, Mac Allister struggled for game time and even considered a possible loan option at the end of 2020. Things, however, turned around when Potter trusted him the following year. He impressed the Albion faithful in the attacking midfield role and so his game time improved.
Last season, Potter predominantly used him as a number 10, where his technical ability was immediately witnessed. The 23-year-old’s tenacity to arrive in the box was also on display. Here’s a goal against Burnley where he escapes the challenge of his marker and finishes off the move brilliantly thanks to his ability to enter into the 6-yard-box at the right time.
Although he played as an attacking midfielder, the manager also used him in a box-to-box role. The below passage of play against Everton perfectly captures his ability to drop deep into space, distribute the play and continue his run into the box unmarked. This was Mac Allister’s hallmark during his days in Argentina.
It was clear that Brighton and Potter viewed him as an attacking midfielder capable of playing in a box-to-box role when needed. But Potter’s lens in the way he viewed Mac Allister changed this season, especially due to the departure of Yves Bissouma to Tottenham Hotspur.
Alexis Mac Allister – 2022/23
Brighton have started the 2022/23 season on the front foot. They are sitting pretty in fourth with 6 games completed and are dominating games. Potter has usually lined up in a 3-4-2-1 setup, but the shape has shifted depending on the opponents. With that said, Mac Allister’s role has remained more or less similar from the start of pre-season.
He was paired with Moises Caicedo, who arguably has more mobility compared to Mac Allister. While Caicedo is more of a box-to-box midfielder, Mac Allister has been instructed to sit deeper and dictate the play. The Argentinian is excellent on the ball and his passing range has improved under Potter. But his impressive positioning in an unknown role to him is the standout feature so far.
Dropping between the center halves in and out of possession has never been his cup of tea, but he has adapted to it seamlessly. His understanding of the game has unquestionably helped him when Brighton loses the ball. Further, the statistics also back this. As per FBref, he tops the chart for tackles plus interceptions among all the Brighton players (26 in 6 games). Moreover, the former Boca Juniors man also leads the successful pressures metric when compared to his teammates, stating his importance of winning the ball back and keeping Brighton moving.
For Brighton’s first goal against West Ham United, he started the move by intercepting a pass and passing the ball to Trossard before Welbeck won the spot kick. Mac Allister, also on penalty duties, calmly slotted it past the keeper to give his team the lead.
The Seagulls set up in a 4-3-3 against Leeds United looking to stretch their opponents as they are known for their high pressing game off the ball. Once again, Mac Allister was at the heart of it. Playing as a lone defensive midfielder, he constantly positioned himself centrally and was the free man in possession. From there, his exclusive passing range was in full flow as he switched the play regularly, stretching Leeds’ back line.
And last but not least – his ball striking ability from long range is majestic as well. Just take this goal against Leicester, for example. Unfortunately for him, the goal was ruled out for offside.
Several players in the Brighton squad can play in multiple positions and it has been Potter’s trademark since he arrived. With that said, the transition from an attacking midfielder, looking to get into goal-scoring positions to a defensive midfielder – sitting back and orchestrating the play is a tough ask. However, Mac Allister has fit in flawlessly in the role and with these kinds of performances combined with his versatile nature, Brighton have a top player in their ranks. He is also in Argentina’s manager – Lionel Scaloni’s plans, and he could pick him for the World Cup in Qatar, which will make his footballing family proud.