October 26, 2014

Horse 1784 - What's Wrong With Balotelli?

Since Mario Balotelli's £16 million move from AC Milan to Liverpool, he has increasingly come under pressure in the press for not scoring any goals in the Premier League. As at the time of writing, Liverpool collectively have scored 13 goals from 9 matches and lie 7th in the table, which is the same number of goals as Crystal Palace who lie a lowly 15th. Blame for this drought of goals has been laid at the feet of Balotelli and he is rather unfairly being compared with ex-Liverpool liability Luis Suarez.
The question though, is this blame being apportioned in the right place? I think that the answer is "No". I think that the real reason lies with players like Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno.

The unsaid thing about a football match is that there is only one ball. Control possession and even if you have the attacking flair of a depressed badger up front, the opposition can not score against you. You can not score goals if you do not hold and keep the ball.
In 2014/15, Liverpool's forwards have suffered from a fatal lack of supply of useful deliveries. It is all very well to say that the forwards are not scoring goals but without the ball being won and passed to, then how are they even supposed to?

It was amazingly obvious against Hull City and even more so against a classy Real Madrid side, that Liverpool didn't necessarily lose the ball that easily as much as it was never theirs to lose in the first place. Against Real Madrid they constantly defended, 8 yards off the ball which meant that this collection of Galácticos were pretty much free to do as they felt like, most of the time.
Against Hull though, Liverpool could very easily sit just in Hull's half but could procede no further. Hull who never really looked like scored, kept the gates to the final third shut and Liverpool resorted to long range efforts.

Balotelli's problem is that he is being employed as a panacea to cure all of Liverpool's ills. His workrate and distances that he travels according to stats are almost 9km in a match which is quite frankly, extraordinary. He's being asked to bear the weight of the side of his shoulders, when all this Italian stallion wants to do is run free.
Balotelli is currently the victim of a side trading on last years' reputation and although he appears to be working harder than everyone, football needs eleven players to do their job; not just one.
I suspect that if Liverpool moved to a 4-4-2 and dominated the middle of the park instead of looking a little directionless with the current 4-3-3 or even changed to a slightly more attacking mentality at 3-4-3, that Balotelli would be worth as many as 40 goals in a season.

You can't make a Thoroughbred do the work of a Shire horse; nor should they be expected to and yet that's what I suspect is happening. Maybe Brendan Rodgers will find a solution to the issue of replacing Daniel Sturridge who won't return until November due to injury but as yet, this problem has no solution that can be found.

I suspect that if Liverpool does find a way to click together all of the parts then Balotelli's goals will come like a torrent but as it stands, he's grinding away and doing his best with not a lot to work with.
What's wrong with Balotelli? Nothing really. The problem lies with the 9 players on the pitch behind him.

No comments: