Rather than look elsewhere at the shaky goalkeeping, the non-existent defending from set pieces or a lack of cohesion and dynamism in midfield, Liverpool’s 1-0 loss at Basel in midweek has almost entirely been blamed on Mario Balotelli.
The Italian arrived back in England this summer with plenty having already formed their opinion of him, in most cases sticking to those opinions and just waiting to be able to air them again.
The defeat in Switzerland in which the Italian failed to touch the ball inside the opposition’s penalty area was the perfect chance to do just that, but it is ridiculous to write off the forward’s Anfield career just yet, and here’s why:
Daniel Sturridge Will Be Back Soon
Liverpool’s successes last season were built around the fact that they could field a strike partnership, and whilst Balotelli is of course no Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge is still Daniel Sturridge.
In the only hour they’ve played together so far – during the 3-0 win at Tottenham – Sturridge and Balotelli demonstrated an understanding with each other that, whilst obviously different to ‘The SAS’, did manage to cause problems for the opposition. Neither player scored but their intelligent movement caused Tottenham all kinds of strife, and it is no coincidence that this remains Liverpool’s best – and only good? – performance of the season.
The Fixture List Is About To Get Kinder
Okay, so you can’t look at Liverpool’s October fixtures without being drawn to the name ‘Real Madrid’ slapped right bang in the middle, but Premier League-wise things could be about to get a little bit easier, and that in turn could boost confidence ahead of the meeting with the European champions.
West Brom, QPR and Hull are the league opponents this month, with Newcastle at the beginning of the next one, and whilst it is true to say that the Reds have dropped points in matches they wouldn’t have expected to this season, those really are fixtures that are crying out to be won.
Saturday's Premier League matches previewed, including Liverpool v West Brom
Brendan Rodgers Will Make Him His New ‘Project’
Brendan Rodgers has an ego, we all know that, and there might well have been an element of that ego coming to the fore when the Northern Irishman agreed to take on Balotelli, doubtless hoping that he could be the man to unlock his potential consistently.
The Liverpool boss – who is still a young manager don’t forget – won’t want to be seen to have made such a high-profile transfer failure this early in his career. He’ll work on Balotelli until he’s a success, even if the ‘tough love’ attitude he’s showing at the moment might not be the right way to go about it.
The Service Should Get Better
Balotelli was incredibly disappointing in Switzerland, but then he hardly received any help from those behind him.
Lazar Markovic is still adapting, Philippe Coutinho is in poor form, Raheem Sterling isn’t having one of his more productive spells and Adam Lallana is still working his way back to full fitness, although the signs from the latter are positive.
When they improve then the service to Balotelli will get better too, and as a result he’ll get goals.
He Can Still Do Stuff Like This
Ultimately, it might just take a swing of his right boot and suddenly everything seems better.
Balotelli will probably forever be one of football’s enigmas, and a player who is perhaps just at Liverpool for a good time rather than a long time, but writing him off off the back of a couple of sub-par performances is ridiculous, and could end up making a few people look rather foolish.
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