ISN’T IT TOO EARLY TO LABEL BALOTELLI A FAILURE?
Liverpool narrowly won Sunday’s away game against QPR 2-3. But the talking point since the game has been the poor display by frontman Mario Balotelli. In his five appearances with Liverpool in the Premier League, the striker hasn’t found the back of the net even once and has failed to capitalize on several good chances as well. Even Liverpool’s legendary defender, Jamie Carrager publicly lambasted the poor performance by the striker lately and advised coach Rodgers to leave the player out of the team until he regains his form.
Fans’ reaction towards Balotelli have been even worse. Several posts and tweets have been floating around the social media bitterly criticizing and mocking the striker. People who were calling themselves ‘the biggest fan of Super Mario’ have suddenly turned into ‘the biggest critics’. But, is it just too soon to label him a failure at Anfield? Let’s look into the facts.
Have we looked at how many games Balotelli has played?
It’s not been so long that Balotelli has come to Liverpool. Actually, it’s been only two months since Liverpool signed the former AC Milan striker after a desperate hunt to look for a frontman who could replace Luis Suarez. And since coming in Liverpool the player has played only 8 games, YES ONLY 8 GAMES! Even proven flops like Christian Poulsen, Paul Konchesky, Joe Cole and Alberto Aqulani got more games than Balotelli, before they were criticized so bitterly!
But the difference as I see it, is that most Liverpool fans had high expectations from Balotelli from the very start. In a way, fans wanted to see Balotelli lift off from where Suarez left. Unfortunately, we seem to be missing out the fact that Balotelli isn’t Suarez; neither their playing styles are the same nor are their character traits. Another thing that we seem to be ignoring is the fact that Suarez had developed a strike combination with Sturridge. But, that’s not so with Balotelli. He has been playing as a lone striker, who needs to be fed some good ball by the midfield to score and he has got many chances. Yet, with that formation Lambert too hasn’t got any success, nor has Borini. Even Suarez was relatively less successful in scoring, when he was the lone striker at Liverpool. The only exception has been Sturridge and unfortunately, he is injured!
So are we missing the point that most lone strike formations in the Liverpool squad have failed in recent years. Balotelli has had to start at Liverpool in a difficult situation and unfortunately despite doing extra training he has failed to live up to the fans’ expectation. But, there is no reason why we should be labelling him an outright failure without observing his role in a strike partnership. In the next few games, Rodgers will probably make difficult adjustments in the squad that may see them score fewer goals and see Balotelli on the bench.
But once Sturridge returns, I am pretty sure that Rodgers will field both of them to allow the development of a lethal strike combination like the last season. It will only be fair to judge Balotelli’s record after Sturridge returns.
Balotelli’s Scoring Stats
We shouldn’t be forgetting that Balotelli’s mere presence in the box has proven to be a headache for several opposition defenders. Let’s look at, for instance, the two suicide goals of last game from QPR. In both the goals, the target from Liverpool’s players were Balotelli and fortunately for Liverpool, QPR’s defenders capitalized them.
In Liverpool’s 8 games featuring him, Liverpool have won 5 games, including 3 PL games, 1 League Cup game and 1 Champions League game, which isn’t that awful, too! Liverpool are currently staying 5th in the league table as well. So, in terms of team synergy, having Balotelli in the squad has given positive effect. Last season was Balotelli’s best career season as well, where he scored 26 goals in 43 appearances for AC Milan and 7 goals in 13 appearances for Italy.
So, perhaps we all need to give the striker some more time to prove himself. BR is in the best place to make the decision regarding how to play him and I am confident that he will get the best out of him when the time comes.