The fact that Brighton have been roped into somewhat of a relegation battle this season is, quite simply, a travesty.
Recent wins over Tottenham and Liverpool have been excellent and eased any concerns that the south coast side will slip back down to the Championship, but they still should be higher.
A Negative Swing in Brighton
According to ‘expected points’ the Seagulls should be challenging for Europe in sixth place, but they instead have found themselves looking over their shoulder at Fulham and West Brom.
The neat and tidy football employed by Graham Potter has resulted in praise for its attraction and beauty, but criticism for its inability to turn dominance into points.
Replacing Chris Hughton in 2019, Potter altered the club’s philosophy and reverted it towards a possession-based, free-flowing style of attacking football. Brighton are a joy to watch, and most neutrals would agree.
A team so carefully and meticulously constructed in Potter’s image, Brighton’s recent recruitment has been shrewd, intelligent, and ingenious.
Moises Caicedo for £4.5m, finalised just a few days ago, Tariq Lamptey for £3m, and Yves Bissouma for £15.2m are just three examples of the astute business conducted on the south coast. Brighton’s trust in Potter is epitomised in the assembled squad in recent years.
Each cog in the Brighton machine is as valuable as the next, and Potter’s focus on building a cohesive unit is second to none. Their fluidity in attack is one such example of this, but whilst they’re experts at chance creation, despite lacking the resources of a Tottenham or an Arsenal, for example, their chance conversion is extremely poor.
In the league this season, they’ve scored just 25 goals, but xG suggests they should’ve had 32; that’s the second-largest negative swing, behind Sheffield United, in the Premier League.
Neal Maupay, Aaron Connolly and Danny Welbeck simply haven’t scored enough, and it’s resulted in a relegation battle.
However, one player can’t be blamed for their lowly position in the league, and will be vital in their battle to rise up the table is the Argentine attacking midfielder, Alexis Mac Allister.
Who is Alexis Mac Allister?
An Argentine with Irish and Scottish heritage, Mac Allister began his professional career with Argentinos in his homeland. His promising displays caught Brighton’s attention, and consequently, a successful £7.2m bid was given the green-light in January 2019.
He returned on loan to Argentinos for the remainder of the 2019/20 season, but work permit issues meant he was unable to join his new teammates in England in the summer. Instead, Mac Allister joined Boca Juniors on loan for the start of the 2020/21 campaign.
His impressive form for Boca led to Brighton resolving the work permit problems and recalling him in January 2020. Mac Allister struggled to force himself into Potter’s plans initially and played just 352 Premier League minutes in his first six months.
Grappling with injury and form, Mac Allister’s lack of impact on the Seagulls continued into the 2020/21 campaign, but he’s been a pivotal piece in the Brighton puzzle in recent weeks.
Mac Allister mixes South American flair, technical proficiency, and an eye for the impossible with defensive grit and a high-energy style that perfectly compliments Leandro Trossard and Maupay.
His pre-assist for Pascal Gross, who squared for Trossard to finish, against Spurs was perfectly weighted, nutmegged Hojbjerg, and revealed a glimpse of Mac Allister’s talent in the final third.
Always keen to play forward, his role in Neal Maupay’s beautifully constructed winner against Leeds was crucial, and it’s no surprise that since he’s re-entered the fray at the Amex, Brighton are picking up points.
Mac Allister is a creative no.10, with an instinct for pressing, and his underlying numbers epitomise this. He pairs his 1.6 key passes, 2.4 dribbles and 2.4 shots per 90 with 3.6 tackles and interceptions per 90; an accurate indication of how effective Mac Allister is in both the attacking and defensive phases of play.
He takes more shots per 90 than Gabriel Jesus (2), completes more dribbles per 90 than Zaha and Mahrez (2). Mac Allister is an attacking force to be reckoned with, and one that competes with the elite forwards in the Premier League.
Furthermore, he completes only 0.1 tackles and interceptions per 90 fewer than Arsenal’s Thomas Partey, despite playing much higher up the pitch; that’s exceptional.
Tidy and technical, Alexis Mac Allister is perfect for Potter’s possession-based system. With two full Argentina caps to his name, the first of which came before he’d even played a game for Brighton, he’s the ideal player to help Brighton climb back to where expected points suggest they should be, in contention for Europe.
Words by Cameron Smith – @_CameronSmith10
Graphic by Sam Ingram – @SamIngram_