So the transfer window is closed and we were successful in adding an additional striker. The surprise is obviously who it was. Mario Balotelli. My initial reaction was one of rage. I mean this guy carries more baggage than Rhianna on tour! Why sign him???
Dodgy temperament, off field weirdness, disruptiveness in the dressing room. On field displays of petulance and non-interest. His footballing ability for me is questionable. I don't think I can count 3 games I have ever seen him produce a World Class performance. I similarly cant count more that 5 that he has out in a good performance but can count loads more where he is completely useless.
So why has Brendan Rodgers plumped for him? I think it comes down to 4 things. Price,Potential and Previous Experience in the Premier League and Availability. He certainly tick those boxes. We were obviously scrambling around in the last few weeks after Remy deal fell through. Like everything if clubs know you are looking the price goes up.
Fortunately for us AC Milan have no money and were having a fire sale this summer. So £16Mill for Balotelli is probably decent value in the last few days of the transfer market. So what does he bring to the table? I am not really sure. He doesn't run in behind, he doesn't really hold the ball up. He can do the sublime but is more prone to the ridiculous. If Sturridge is out long term at any point, is this guy really going to produce? Time will tell and I will be the first to praise the manager if it works out. Its a big gamble but for Mario this is probably his last chance and a decent club....
We certainly cant rely on Rickie Lambert who now looks completely awestruck and out of his depth at Liverpool. It started with a penalty miss in pre-season and he hasn't looked anything like the player who displayed such poise and quality at Southampton. He is indecisive, leaden footed and has even forgotten how to header. He will be the League Cup guy and no more...
Fabio Borini refusing to go to Sunderland might actually prove a good decision. He is still raw but can score and he proved at Sunderland he can do it at this level either coming on off the flanks or through the middle. I like the kid. He really tries and is always looking to get involved.
Brendan Rodgers was asked by Ed Chamberlain on Monday Night Football before the Man City game what Balotelli brought to the team. The 1st word out of his mouth with that cheeky little grin of his was 'Trouble' . Fair play to him totally defused any follow up questions.Rodgers is backing himself to be able to deal with Mario's ego and idiocyncracies. He has previous in this working with the various lads at Chelsea and sort Raheem Sterling out. So we have to back his judgement and give it time. As you can above our alternatives are not great.
Our Summer spending left us with a net spend of around £58million. The 3rd highest in the Premier League. An investment we sorely needed as we were fortunate last year that with our limited squad we didn't suffer too many injuries to key players. With the added Champions League commitments we certainly needed more quantity as well as quality. For the most part we have done that. Have added enough to challenge again for the title, I think not. Top 4 is a more realistic target but will still be a stretch for this squad. I like the way Rodgers does his business, generally early and well.
It will take time for them all to settle and to be fair to Brendan Rodgers he has introduced them sparingly. Lovren, Manquillo and Moreno obviously straight into the team to attempt to fix a porous defence and provide more quality from out wide. The jury is still out at this early stage. As you saw yesterday, Villa were able to cause and force more Keystone Cop defending. Sakho is useless at this level and Moreno has shown in the 3 games that he can be brilliant (Spurs) or rubbish (City and Villa). We really need to field a solid regular back 4. Someone always seems to be injured or out of form.
Think Rodgers hand was forced to some extent against Villa yesterday with Sturridge being injured. Markovic,Balotelli and Lallana were chucked in with re-called Coutinho and you could see the 4 of them haven't played together. Additionally Villa under Paul Lambert deployed the exact same tactic they have used on the previous 2 visits to Anfield and unsurprisingly won the game. Brendan Rodgers pre-match comments about having a game plan and explaining his reasons for resting Sterling just didn't wash for me.
Clearly there was no game plan for Villa. We played 4-2-3-1, they pressed us in midfield kept a solid, tight midfield 3 and played on the break. There was no space for Coutinho to work in, Markovic vanished after a bright 10 minutes of so in the middle of the 1st half. Lallana clearly not fully fit and looked a yard short. Balotelli never made a single run in behind. Similarly almost no link-up play with any of the front 4.
Resting Sterling was stupid. He has been our best and most consistent player so far. Yes he played twice for England but that was Monday night. If we had a tough Champions League draw or fixture, I would have understood the decision. But we are playing some donkeys from Bulgaria at Anfield on Tuesday. Surely that was the game to change so much in the team?
Play Sterling get a couple ahead and take him off. Not bring him on and put that extra pressure on. He got absolutely clattered by Alan Hutton and we are lucky he didn't get injured. Villa completely out fought us and yet again their Champions League winner of a coach got the tactics spot on..... again. While ours was flummoxed. Any manager with half a brain will be using this as a blue-print for any games against us home or away.
Rodgers deserves a huge amount of credit for what he has done and is doing at Liverpool. We were going nowhere fast when he arrived. We play some of the most amazing flowing and devastating football in Europe when we are on song. He changes formations very subtly at times. Using midfield diamond, changing who as at the attacking point, 2-3 formation in midfield or 4-3-3. Its good and shows great grasp of whats going on.
However there doesn't seem to be a plan B when the way we play isn't working. Arsenal have been getting accused of this for years. We are similarly guilty of being a one trick pony at times. We start fast and if we don't score we play on the break and kill the opposition with the speed of our attacks. When faced with team that sit in. Hull, Southampton twice, Villa 3 years running and infamously Chelsea, we are devoid of options.
Perhaps that's part of the thinking behind bringing in Balotelli. That X factor the unknown. Sure last season we had Suarez who quite frankly, was unplayable and could probably have unlocked Fort Knox with his thinking and quick feet never mind an obdurate defence. They are different animals but we need Balotelli to produce those eureka moments when we aren't being allowed to dominate.
Yesterday was horrible day at the office. Brad Guzan didn't have save to make all match. Coutinho's curler that hit the post was the only scare they had. We had 18 shots but most of them were from long range and were blocked before they travelled 5 yards or were wayward. Our defending in general was poor and set pieces we were particularly woeful. Too busy wrestling with their players instead of watching the ball and attacking it.
We really need to sort out the defending as we have already conceded 5 goals in our 4 games so far. Mostly down to abject defending rather than any particular brilliance from our opponents.
I was confident we could claim 3rd this year but I am thinking that will probably go to Arsenal. If they can get Sanchez,Wellbeck and Walcott fit and playing together for any length of time they will destroy teams because they have the pace and weapons to get in behind. We will be a in battle for 4th with Everton and Man United. I cant see Spurs featuring, tehy lack big match temperament and character. They were woeful against us.
Here is a victorious return to Champions League on Tuesday against Ludogorets Razgrad. My starting 11:
No Stevie G for this one, he cant do 3 games in a week. Hell he can barely do one.
Coutinho needs space and I cant imagine the Bulgarians will do anything but park the bus, so we must use the pace we have. Changing both fullbacks will give the new boys a rest and use our more experienced players.
Markovic showed flashes of what he can do. Needs to take players on more. He will also be one of the most experienced players on the pitch from a European games perspective after his exploits with Benfica last season. A potential goal fest against minnows will do him the world of good.
Yes I have left out Lallana for the simple reason he isn't match fit. If we are cruising at halftime, take off Sterling and bring him on. That way he isn't under pressure. Similarly Balotelli and Lambert. Mario needs to get off the mark.
The CL draw has been kind to us and other than the Real Madrid games we should win the other 4 although Basel away will be tricky.
Lets hope for a reaction and a barnstorming performance from the lads
- I have been a Red since I was about 6 or 7. My boyhood hero was Kenny Dalglish and I have an autograph from him while he was still at Celtic. Thanks Gran! As such I gravitated towards the team he played for. So I have been Scottish-South African- Scoucer for about 30 years now! I am extremely passionate about our club, and have felt the need to start this blog in the face of the abject nature of our performaces under Benitez and the Hicks/Gillett ownership.