In Focus: Advanced role has Mac Allister making waves for Seagulls
Alexis Mac Allister is thriving in an advanced-midfield role for Roberto De Zerbi's Brighton.
The Argentine has been in superb form of late, registering three goal contributions in his last three Premier League outings.
A stellar World Cup-winning campaign proved to be a springboard for the midfielder, whose partnership with Enzo Fernandez played a major part in La Albiceleste lifting the trophy.
If Mac Allister continues in this vein — starting with today’s FA Cup quarter-final clash against fourth-tier Grimsby — he could be in line for a big move away from the South Coast this summer.
A new role
Mac Allister has been deployed in a more withdrawn position as part of a double-pivot alongside Moises Caicedo for most of the season.
However, Brighton boss De Zerbi has moved the 24-year-old into a more advanced role since February and the change has paid dividends.
He said: "Yes, [Mac Allister] played very well. I think he can play better because he is Alexis Mac Allister. But in that position [is] maybe the best for him.
"Yes, [he should be scoring more goals]. Not only goals but also the last pass, because he [has the] quality to score and to assist."
Mac Allister's opener in the 2-2 draw at Leeds was his seventh Premier League goal of the campaign — making him the club's joint-highest scorer in the competition this season, alongside Solly March and former team-mate Leandro Trossard.
It was a rare open-play goal for the 14-cap international, who has netted four of his seven strikes from the penalty spot and one from a direct free-kick.
But the Santa Rosa native is now getting into dangerous positions with greater frequency as a result of playing higher up the pitch.
Alongside his evident ability from dead-ball situations, this added threat from open play is likely to see the Seagulls star take on a greater share of his side's goalscoring responsibility.
Even when he was being deployed in a deeper role, Mac Allister showed a propensity to burst towards the box and set up team-mates around the area.
Ahead of this weekend, no player in the Premier League had completed a greater number of lay-off passes than the Argentine's 31.
De Zerbi clearly identified this trait as one which makes him suited to operating more frequently in the final third.
Now that Mac Allister's starting position is higher, expect Brighton's No10 to engage in even more link-up play in advanced areas.
Mac Allister's impressive performances have inevitably led to links with a move elsewhere.
The 5ft 9in maestro has revealed a preference to remain in England but reiterated his commitment to the Seagulls and their push for a European place.
He said: "The truth is, I don't have a team in particular where I say they suit my way of playing.
"I think that here in the Premier League there are very strong teams, teams who play very well, like Manchester City and Arsenal.
"[At] Chelsea, I had [Graham] Potter [as my former manager] and I know more or less the idea he has for playing football.
"Manchester United are returning a bit to what they were and Liverpool are having ups and downs but have still got a very important team and coach.
"If you ask me, I'd like my next step to be in the Premier League.
"But the truth is, as I said before, I am very focused here in Brighton and enjoying the present."
Soaring into the semis?
League Two Grimsby are all the stand in the way of Brighton and a spot in the FA Cup semi-finals.
The South Coast side have already demonstrated that they are taking this competition seriously and refuse to give in to complacency, even when faced with lower-league opposition.
They swept Championship outfit Middlesbrough aside 5-1 before eliminating holders Liverpool in the fourth round, followed by an edgy 1-0 victory in Stoke.
Mac Allister featured in all three of those games, scoring twice off the bench at the Riverside Stadium and playing the full 90 minutes in each of the subsequent two fixtures.
The prospect of silverware is now very real for De Zerbi's outfit — and the Seagulls will look to their World Cup winner to help fire them into the last four.