5) Telling Mario Balotelli – ‘It’s our way, or the highway’…
The first few months of the season were a few of the most torrid Liverpool fans can remember in recent history, having to watch £16m summer signing Mario Balotelli toil as a lone striker in a remarkably uninspiring 4-3-3 formation. He lacked spark, energy, enthusiasm and finishing – and failed to score a single Premier League goal before injury struck him down in November. Although Balotelli returned from injury quickly, Rodgers had decided that the striker must seriously shape up if he was to have an Anfield future.
“He knows exactly what is required to be in this squad before he can be in the team,” Rodgers warned in January.
“It is difficult for him [Balotelli] but he knows the level of [where] this team is at – you see the aggression in our pressing and if you can’t do that you are not going to be a part of what this team is trying to achieve.”
Rodgers was right. Our style, which almost won us a title last season, is based on endless pressing, dynamic and varied attacking movement, and an inherent need to work for the team. Until Balotelli understood this, he’d be out of the side. Whether this seemed harsh or not (these characteristics don’t come naturally to Balotelli), it was for the good of the team.
Without wanting to jump the gun, it seems like Balotelli might have paid attention to his manager’s words… He came on and scored a crucial Premier League winner versus Spurs last week, and played an impressive 45 minute FA Cup cameo at the weekend, too – working hard, making runs, and pressing the opposition. It took a while, but it seems like penny may have dropped with the maverick 24-year-old.