Brendan Rodgers has shown signs he is becoming concerned with Mario Balotelli, after demanding more from the signing he described as a ‘calculated risk’.
The Italian’s cause was not helped by a poor showing in Basel in midweek, a match in which he failed to touch the ball in the opposition’s penalty area, and managed just a 65% pass completion rate.
And Rodgers has shed some light on the decision to bring the striker in for £16million during the summer after a difficult start to his Anfield career that has seen him score one goal in seven matches.
“I encourage the strikers to get into the framework of the goal and go and break the lines,” said Rodgers.
“Our service and quality in the final third wasn’t to the standard it should be. But you have to be able to make and create goals yourself as a front player and he (Balotelli) didn’t do that.
“I always said it was about availability and affordability of players. Mario was the one right at the very end who was available for that.
“I said when he came in that it was a calculated risk and it’s something I have to work on to try to make it work for the team.
“Any striker, not just him, is judged on his goals and the number of assists you make. At this moment he has not hit the numbers he will have wanted.
“It is as simple as that.”
There has been a noticeable change in the tone of the Liverpool manager of late, clearly concerned his side have stepped back into the transition phase having sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the summer.
Some have suggested the Reds were caught out by their failure to land Alexis Sanchez as a part of the deal, meaning they were forced to turn to Balotelli at the final moment.
But Rodgers has denied the clubs transfer policy during the summer was flawed.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “There are very few players who can replace Suarez. Actually, there are no players who can replace Suarez.
“It’s no good now I know, but we took a player in Origi who we believe will be world class and we’ll get him in the summer.
“Now he is a top player. He has everything: the speed, the profile, he can run in behind, he can keep the ball, he can press, but our deal was we couldn’t bring him in now and that was unfortunate.”
Injuries have also taken their toll on Liverpool this season, with Rodgers claiming the injury sustained to midfielder Joe Allen whilst on international duty has been key to the Reds slump.
“In this period we have missed him,” said Rodgers. “He is a player that never gets mentioned. He very rarely turns over the ball.
“He always loves the football and gets other players playing. The key feature for Joe on top of that is his intensity and his pressure.
“He presses the game very well. He is a very intelligent footballer, tactically he is outstanding, and we have really missed his energy and quality. He will be back after international break.”
With Allen and Daniel Sturridge set to remain on the sidelines for Saturday’s visit of West Brom, Rodgers will put his faith in Balotelli once more, despite his less than glowing comments about the 24-year-old leading up to the game, in which you can’t help but feel he was never the first choice signing this summer.
“You analyse and assess what the group had and we brought Rickie Lambert in as someone who can play some games for us and come off the bench and be an impact player,” said Rodgers.
“Daniel is a top Premier League player but he has shown during his time here that he does get injuries so we needed to prepare for that. Obviously, Fabio Borini looked like he was on his way out.
“We’d had attempts for other strikers that didn’t materialise for one reason or another so it left us right at the end of the window with a decision of whether just to go with what we had, which experience told us we were well too light, or to take a calculated risk on a player who has quality.
“Then it was a case of could we get it out of him consistently?”
The answer to that question so far has been a resounding no, with the Italian now in desperate need of a Premier League goal to lift some of the pressure off his shoulders. Tomorrow would do nicely for both him and his boss.
Do you think Brendan Rodgers is losing patience with Mario Balotelli? Was he even Rodgers’ signing? Let us know your thoughts below.