Mario – The Scapegoat

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By Bhalchandra Govind

Mario Balotelli has been under constant criticism since his debut for the club this season. Signed as a replacement for the mighty Luis Suarez, the Italian striker is having a hard time to be a regular on the score sheet for the Reds, scoring only twice out of fourteen appearances. But is he really the only responsible behind Liverpool’s poor run?

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has been sticking to his strategy of letting Mario Balotelli wondering alone in the red’s attack throughout this new campaign. It’s a playing style the young Italian is not used to. The ex-Swansea Boss seems has been turning a blind eye onto the fact his strategy has not been paying off so far. The Italian striker is struggling to be a real threat to opponents under Rodger’s often 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 formation. The lack of good assists and decent service from Liverpool’s midfield make it a much more difficult task for him to score. It’s a situation he has not been used to in his Inter Milan, Man City and AC Milan career where he’s been backed by a strong productive goal assist mechanism.

As quoted by Skyports, when Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was questioned on Suarez and Balotelli, he stated that the two players are different. “There is no comparison between the two as players. Luis was brilliant for me in his time here and developed to become a player who consistently delivered in terms of scoring and creating.  Mario is different. He’s got a lot of experience for 24, he has come here as an established international” said the Liverpool boss. But in my opinion, they have other non-discussed tangible differences and a few similarities as well. Let us see why.

Suarez v/s Balotelli – the similarities
The similarity between those two players lies on their strong athleticism and the fact of them being less prone to injuries. Both of them possess strong physique, firm abilities to win balls in the air and body play. And of course, we shall not forget their disciplinary issues in football.

Suarez v/s Balotelli – the differences
Balotelli does not possess the creative ability like Luis Suarez to juggle in all possible and ‘unexpected’ angles to give defenders a hard time to mark him. Mario is more of a static player, but who has a powerful shot on goal ability. He does not have the same rapid playing skills. But he definitely has the ability of a clinical striker when provided decent assists which he is in short of at Merseyside club currently. As a Liverpool player, Suarez created his own chance, provided assists and is used to finish the job himself.  But Mario is more of a dependent player who needs support around.

In short, the Reds have not brought in a striker which complements the exact abilities of the Uruguayan genius. It is futile to expect the same tenacity from the Italian striker as his playing style simply differs. This is why there is the feeling that the void left by Suarez in the Red’s attack has not been filled so far. It would be unfair to blame Mario Balotelli solely for Liverpool’s lackluster performance so far. As stated by Carlo Ancelotti in his prematch news conference ahead of Liverpool ‘s last Tuesday’s return meeting at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, “  They need to look for another solution, find another style with new players. I do not believe that all of Liverpool’s problems in this moment are down to Balotelli ….”

The best way for Rodgers to bring the best out of the young Italian is to shift to 4-4-2 formation offering a support to Mario in the attack. A positive outcome to this formation has been witnessed by the KOPS when Liverpool faced Swansea in the Capital One Cup. The combination of Borini and Balotelli in the attack has demonstrated great performance that very night and can be more fruitful in upcoming fixtures if implemented. Borini has been demanding his chance to prove himself in the absence of injured Daniel Sturridge. But Rodger Brendan’s stubbornness of playing Liverpool with one striker is costing the Red’s in terms of the attacking ability in games so far. And who knows it might even cost him his job. A team who scored 101 goals last season faced their 8th defeat of the season yesterday against Chelsea.