herald

Monday 23 October 2017

mario lucky to land on his feet

Liverpool's squad unity can greatly aid Balotelli as he aims to redeem himself

MARIO Balotelli has really landed on his feet. By some strange quirk of fate, he finds himself in one of the few environments in European football where he has a chance to redeem a career which has been riddled with problems.

Yesterday's game against Spurs was a big test for Liverpool and obviously enough for Balotelli, but it was the way Brendan Rodgers' team played which eased some of my fears about their latest signing.

fizzing

Liverpool were fizzing with energy and ideas yesterday and absolutely blew Spurs away. In the midst of it all, Balotelli missed a sitter and got himself into one or two good positions.

My big worry is the same one I had last week when I said I wouldn't sign him if he was the last player on earth. For the Liverpool project to work well, every player on the pitch has to be completely committed.

Balotelli looked lazy at times, unwilling to make the runs back into defence as often as he carried out his instructions. This Liverpool machine is finely tuned and cannot carry passengers.

But I do feel that Rodgers and Stevie Gerrard have built a very solid group mentality in this squad. They really do get on well and they really do play for each other.

Balotelli would not have experienced that at Manchester City which was a club filled with cliques while Roberto Mancini was manager.

I still have massive doubts about him but he has ended up almost by accident surrounded by people who will try their best to help. Let's hope he responds.

As I said above, I thought this really was a big game for Rodgers. The performance against Manchester City was poor enough to suggest that his players were suffering from second season syndrome, when a really good push towards the title is followed by a damp squib.

But I was very wrong. Liverpool passed and moved and didn't give Spurs a second to think. They had the game won by half-time and stifled all attempts by the home side to find a way back.

There were negatives. There were than a few scares at the back caused by Mamadou Sakho who I always worry about but Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno (inset) more than made up for that with their performances.

Lovren was sure-footed and authoritative and if he showed the odd moment of weakness, it was mostly because of mistakes by Sakho.

match

Moreno scored a great goal and looked to play on the front foot for the whole match.

Very impressive indeed and a bit better than his debut howler against Manchester City.

All told, a very satisfying performance and benchmark for Balotelli which he must rise to.

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