Eyebrows were raised when Liverpool announced the signing of Mario Balotelli from AC Milan. Many thought the mere £16 million that Liverpool paid was the bargain of the summer.
However, Balotelli’s Liverpool career has not got off to the start that Liverpool fans hoped for. After scoring just one goal in ten games, he has started catching the headlines again for all the wrong reasons.
The Italian striker’s recent performances have been far from convincing and seem to be causing more problems that they solve for Liverpool. Balotelli was initially brought in to replace the outgoing Luis Suarez, however, it was clear that he is a completely different type of player to Suarez, so either he had to adapt or Liverpool did.
Liverpool caught the eye of many last season with their quick, free flowing and attacking football. Movement and speed were key to their success – none of which new signing Mario Balotelli has shown since the switch.
I feel that this was a a panic buy, as Balotelli does not fit into the team, or the style of play that Brendan Rodgers has developed at Anfield. I do not doubt Balotelli’s capabilities, however, I doubt we will ever see the best of him in a Liverpool shirt.
Since joining Liverpool he has look sluggish and, quite frankly, lazy. He is clearly suffering from a lack of confidence due to the lack of goals that he has scored so far, however, that is no reason for him not to put any effort in.
If he is not scoring, he has to sacrifice himself and make runs and create chances for his team-mates. At the moment, he isn’t doing that, which is the cause of the majority of criticism against him. A lot of strikers go through goalless patches, that doesn’t mean they don’t have to run and give the effort required. If Balotelli was to make himself more mobile, he would be more of a threat to defenders – and the criticism would surely diminish.
Liverpool also have Rickie Lambert on the bench; a similar player to balotelli. They both hold up the ball well and can utilise their strength in and around the penalty area. However, Lambert is a boyhood fan of the club. It was quite clear over the summer how much the transfer meant to him. For me, it is better to have a player on the field that you know will give you ten out of ten every game.
Lambert scored seventeen goals for club and country last season. He also possesses additional value when it comes to dead ball situations. However, it was clear that Brendan Rodgers was looking for more pace going forward during their Champions League clash against Real Madrid, when he substituted Balotelli after a lacklustre first-half, which resulted in Raheem Sterling playing as a striker.
Partnering Balotelli and Lambert could be an option for Brendan Rodgers, but I don’t think this would benefit Liverpool as it would require sacrificing a player from their successful midfield.
Liverpool are clearly suffering the effects of losing Suarez, and having Daniel Sturridge unavailable through injury. They look short of options upfront. I believe the misfiring Balotelli will provide Lambert with the chance he deserves to star for this Liverpool side. His transfer was overshadowed both by his love for the club and the arrival of Balotelli. However, it is Lambert who will be able to offer more to the team. It does not completely solve the problem, but it could add some stability to the team.