‘Tell you what, this game’s been pretty terrible, but who’s that number ten for Brighton? I don’t think I’ve seen him play before. He looks tasty.’
Don’t get it twisted – Brighton’s 0-0 draw with Aston Villa was nowhere near a classic Premier League classic. The skill from both sides was there for all to see, but nothing came of it.
The Seagulls dominated for most of the game, though their pretty patterns of play amounted to little. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Aston Villa‘s star players like Jack Grealish and Ollie Watkins were well subdued by the hosts, and a point apiece seemed to suit both sides.
There was space for some players to impress, mind. Brighton pair Yves Bissouma and Pascal Gross were combative in central midfield, as was Villa’s John McGinn, while Emiliano Martinez was in fine form, making a number of saves to keep the game goalless.
But in all honesty, none of the above have the same interesting back story as Alexis Mac Allister, the Argentina international – yep, that’s correct – of Scottish and Irish descent who has been given a larger role at Brighton this season. So that’s what the post-game take is about.
Graham Potter’s side is filled with pretty and neat attacking players. Gross and Adam Lallana have their cute flicks and turns and Leandro Trossard has an excellent shot from range, but Mac Allister offers more of a driving force behind Brighton’s attack.
Granted, nothing on Saturday night came of those moments of promise, but encouraging performances have been there to see in recent weeks.
He set up the winner at Leeds in mid January and played a part in Steven Alzate’s winner against Blackpool in the FA Cup, too. Mac Allister missed the historic win at Liverpool, but was present and impressive during the 1-0 victory over Tottenham.
He played a large role in the buildup to that game’s only goal and his influence on the side is growing match by match.
The 22-year-old operated just behind Neal Maupay and Trossard on Saturday night and was bright in possession, always showing for the ball in the final third and taking on more shots (six) than any other player.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t help his side make the telling game-winning breakthrough. Brighton comfortably outplayed Villa, registering 26 shots to the visitors’ four, but as has so often been the case for the south coast side this term, their lack of clinical finishing let them down.
Mac Allister is certainly not blameless there. He took on most of the attacking burden and ultimately came up short, but his performance again hinted at some currently untapped potential. He has made two appearances for Argentina so far, both coming in 2019, so it’s clear he’s highly rated in his homeland after a few seasons in the Primera Division.
Some upset wins have steered Brighton away from the relegation zone, and none of Sheffield United, Fulham or West Brom seem good enough to close that gap that has been created. Regardless, players like Maupay, Trossard and Mac Allister need to start converting those chances that are created by Potter’s side.
Mac Allister certainly has the more mysterious aura around him. If he can add some final product to those mazy runs and moments of inspiration, Brighton may have unearthed a gem.