Liverpool took a “calculated gamble” when they signed Mario Balotelli in the summer for a reported fee of £16m.
The Reds manager Brendan Rodgers went against his initial opinion while sanctioning a deal for Balotelli; he admits that his change of heart was caused by a lack of quality striker in the transfer market.
Having missed out on Alexis Sanchez and Loic Remy, Rodgers insists that he was left with no choice but to sign the best forward available to the club.
Balotelli has made an underwhelming start at Anfield and has appeared unsuited to Liverpool’s system. He has tried to impress everyone with his work-rate but for a striker of his quality, a record of one goal in seven appearances is an insufficient return.
Rodgers said as quoted by The Times: “ I think in terms of goals, he needs to improve. It is as simple as that. Any striker, not just him, is judged on his goals and the number of assists you make.”
Balotelli’s ability at holding up the ball is under-rated but at the same time he lacks mobility. He is a typical target-man type of striker (a better version of Rickie Lambert) who is incapable of stretching up defences and creating space for attacking midfielders to exploit.
And in a way it is hampering Liverpool’s identity. The free flowing football, the ruthless domination by counterattack are missing from Liverpool’s game and surprisingly more and more crosses are coming into the box to get the best out of the target man.
Balotelli has a poor conversion record from open plays. At Milan, he scored 30 goals in 54 appearances during his two years’ stay at the club, but only 15 of those were from open play. This season he has managed 20 shots so far with a poor 5% conversion rate. No wonder why he never scored 20 goals in any season for any of the clubs he has played so far.
Rodgers has to find a way to make things work again. May be Balotelli will get better when Sturridge returns to action again from injury. At the moment, he is simply not doing enough to justify his price tag.