As Liverpool face the possibility of three games without Alexis Mac Allister, Jürgen Klopp has already received one hidden piece of good news.
Fifty-eight minutes into Alexis Mac Allister’s home debut for Liverpool, the Argentine looked to close down Ryan Christie on the edge of the Bournemouth penalty area.
Mac Allister arrived a little late and caught Christie as he cleared the ball upfield, and may have been bracing himself for a yellow card.
But he and virtually everybody else inside Anfield was stunned when referee Thomas Bramall brandished a red, consigning him to the same fate as Darwin Núñez suffered on his first home start 12 months ago.
Even though this decision was a whole lot more controversial — Núñez had lost his cool and headbutted Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen — video assistant referee Paul Tierney didn’t advise Bramall to take another look at the pitchside monitor.
Now it remains to be seen whether Liverpool appeal the red card, a move Jürgen Klopp suggested the club would at the very least consider. The Reds manager felt that the challenge failed to meet most of the criteria for a dismissal.
“Yes, I saw it back,” he said in his post-match press conference (via LFC). “I think the amount of times I got asked about it shows already it is worth discussing it again, which we will probably do.
“I saw it back now, in the game I couldn’t. I asked Macca and he said, ‘I touched him but not really.’ That was all he told me.
“After the game, I saw it back now and I think if you have a list of points of what you need to give a red card, I think the majority — besides contact — nothing else, no other boxes ticked in that moment.
“I think it is a decision we all agree if he gives a yellow card the VAR would not overturn it. He gave a red card and the VAR is not overturning it because the contact means there is no clear and obvious [error].”
If Liverpool doesn’t lodge an appeal, or doesn’t get the desired outcome, then Mac Allister could miss as many as three Premier League matches — Newcastle away next weekend, Aston Villa at home and Wolves away after the international break. He wouldn’t be eligible for selection again until September 24 when Liverpool hosts West Ham.
The trip to Newcastle promises to be one of the toughest away games all season, while Villa represents a stern test itself as another member of last year’s top seven who left Anfield with a draw in May. Wolves are the weakest of the three opponents, but they did beat Liverpool 3-0 in the same fixture back in February.
Not only is Mac Allister a quality player, a £35m addition aimed at transforming Liverpool’s midfield, but he’s also been filling in as a number six in the first couple of games to address the side’s shortfall in that area. On the face of it, then, his absence would be doubly problematic.
But the good news is that the defensive midfield outlook is finally improving for the Reds. Wataru Endo has arrived from Stuttgart in a £16m deal and made his debut as a substitute on Saturday, while Stefan Bajčetić made a surprise return to the matchday squad.
Klopp had appeared to rule the Spaniard out of contention for the Bournemouth game on Friday when he said he was ‘really close’ to returning ‘but not there yet’, only to unexpectedly name him amongst the substitutes.
Bajčetić wasn’t used during the game, remaining hidden on the bench, but he could be in contention for the Newcastle clash with another week of training behind him or, failing that, the meetings with Aston Villa and Wolves.
Meanwhile, Thiago should make his return to the squad soon too, with Klopp indicating that he was at a similar stage of his rehabilitation to Bajčetić.
So, if Mac Allister’s ban stands — and we’re waiting to find out — then the consolation is that Liverpool in a much better position than it was this time last week.