Struggling Liverpool face Burnley this Boxing Day. The Reds go into this game at the back of a hard fought, but richly deserved draw against Arsenal. The Merseysiders are without a doubt, struggling at the moment and need to assemble wins over the festive period if they want to keep up Top 4 hopes.
Mario Balotelli is set to return for Liverpool’s clash with Burnley, and will replace Fabio Borini in the squad (after his forgettable cameo appearance against Arsenal) who is suspended. When questioned about the Italian, Brendan Rodgers interestingly also admitted that the Italian may not be suited to the Liverpool’s style of play.
Rodgers has recently employed the 3-4-2-1 formation with Raheem Sterling acting as the false nine and it requires high intensity with the pressing, passes and movement.
“We’ve seen that it is not really his game,” Rodgers said.
“Working with Mario, we’ve seen that he is someone who is better in and around the box. That level of pressing and intensity is not part of his game. But you try to make the best out of the players you have, and the qualities that they have. That’s something we will focus on.
“The most important thing is that he’s now available after his ban. It adds another player to our squad, which is important especially with Fabio (Borini) now suspended.”
He also added, “We are at our best when our game is aggressive. We’ve had to adapt this year, in terms of how we’ve had to play, because of personnel. After the Crystal Palace game, we needed to get some results to steady the ship, so we needed some solid performances. But I’ve always known that long-term that was going to take us where we want to go.
“We’ve tried to find the solution to get back that intensity and that tempo, and I think we’ve seen that. It’s key for us, that aggressive pressure at the top end of the field. It gives us the platform to go on and dominate the ball.
“We have to try to maximise the players that we have to make sure our game is as close as possible to the level we want, and the intensity we want. And obviously the last three games has been a lot closer.”
Rodgers has faced a lot of criticism regarding his handling of Balotelli since the Italian made his transfer from Milan this summer and his comments in the media etc. These recent comments are also going to be deeply scrutinized by media in the upcoming days. There are clear signs of Balotelli not being Rodgers choice and have been from day 1 with all the ‘calculated risk’ remarks. It is becoming more evident that the purchase of the former City man was a panic buy after the Remy deal mysteriously collapsed and Fabio Borini was expected to move to Sunderland. With no alternatives, or feasible ones for FSG, they went in for the controversial and erratic striker.
There is no doubt about whether the 24 year old is talented or not (he is!), but he is, like said before- very erratic in nature. Besides, what Rodgers said is true. He is not the ideal man to play pass and move football. He is a target man (someone Liverpool already bought in Rickie Lambert in the same transfer window). Balotelli has however, had great moments in a red shirt this season that have shown the Kop faithful glimpses of what he is capable of. His best game was his debut against Spurs and that came in a 4-4-2 formation when he was played alongside Daniel Sturridge, a highly pacey and mobile striker. So Liverpool fans are naturally keen to see the two team up and whether they can form an effective strike partnership. For now, Rodgers statements are not untrue as Balotelli is not suited for a fast paced games where you need the attack and transition to happen quickly and hence he has employed Raheem Sterling in that role and not Rickie Lambert.