Three reasons why Liverpool should drop Mario Balotelli
Harry Reardon sets out three reasons why misfiring striker Mario Balotelli should be dropped against Hull
He’s not scoring goals, and Liverpool cannot wait for him to improve
Put bluntly, the one thing a striker really needs to do is score goals. Ruud van Nistelrooy’s lack of contribution outside the penalty area for Manchester United has been well-documented – common consensus suggests that of his 150 goals in 219 games for the club, just one was from beyond the 18-yard line – but a productivity rate like that brooks no real argument. Roberto Soldado, on the other hand, had perhaps the best game of the season from a Tottenham striker against Manchester City last Saturday; but then he missed a penalty, had another effort saved, and it was back to the bench in the Europa League in midweek. Liverpool, meanwhile, are starting to slip off the Premier League pace. They are already nine points off Chelsea – and only that close thanks to scraped victories against West Bromwich Albion and QPR – and are starting to show the signs of strain, both mentally and physically, from the Champions League exertions that they did not face last season. If Mario Balotelli had managed to scrape just two or three more goals than the one he has managed in ten appearances so far for the Reds, they would be in a healthier league position, and he could mooch around the pitch as much as he liked, as Dimitar Berbatov has done with some success before him. The Reds need goals, though, and they cannot afford to wait much longer.
There is apparent mistrust on both sides
Things hardly augured well for Balotelli from the start. Before signing the Italian, Brendan Rodgers “categorically” denied any interest in him. Then, within a month of his arrival, the Liverpool manager admitted to the media that “it was about availability and affordability of players” and that “Mario was the one right at the very end who was available for that”, describing his purchase as a “calculated risk” after “we had attempts for other strikers that didn’t materialise for one reason or another”. Hardly gushing praise for a new, multi-million pound signing; and the Northern Irishman has been at it again this week, saying: “We brought in the player to give him a chance and we will continue to do that … We will see come January what the team needs.” If there was one thing which should have been obvious from the moment Balotelli joined the Reds, it was that he would need a supportive atmosphere around the club in order to perform at his best. His manager’s lukewarm words are not conducive to that, and it is difficult to see that changing much now. If Rodgers’s public pronouncements paint a true picture of the lack of mutual trust, it is difficult to see Balotelli contributing much more in a Liverpool shirt.
There are options to replace him
And if Mario Balotelli does not want to play for Liverpool, there is a man waiting in the wings who certainly does. There have been royal weddings that were less public than Sunderland’s courting of Fabio Borini in the summer, but the Italian stood his ground, telling Sky Sports recently that it was always clear in his mind that he wanted to remain at Anfield and fight for his place. There are arguments that he should get it now, too. Balotelli’s international team mate did not disgrace himself on loan at the Black Cats last year, reaching double figures in goals in all competitions, and he showed enough at Roma following his departure from Chelsea to prompt Brendan Rodgers to make him his first Liverpool signing in July 2012. Borini is still only 23 – it took Daniel Sturridge that long to find his feet – while were he to be given a run in the side, he would have the benefit of playing in front of an improving Philippe Coutinho, an in-form Raheem Sterling and an increasingly settled-looking Adam Lallana. Daniel Sturridge’s ongoing injury absence is certainly a blow, but Rickie Lambert remains an option, as – at a push – does Lazar Markovic. Liverpool’s cupboard is not entirely bare.