Mario Balotelli’s available tomorrow, having recovered from a groin problem and an Instagram problem. But the Liverpool striker hasn’t started a game since Nov. 8, and it doesn’t seem like he’s about to against Burnley now that Brendan Rodgers has adopted a 3-4-3 formation the manager says doesn’t suit the player who was supposed to replace Luis Suárez.
“I think we’ve seen that it’s not really his game,” Rodgers told reporters. “Having worked with Mario during the time he’s been here, we’ve seen that he’s a player who’s better in and around the box, so that level of intensity and pressing isn’t a part of his game, but you try to get the best out of the players that you have, and the qualities that they have, so that’s something that we’ll focus on.”
Rodgers is at once offering an excuse that shields the Italian from criticism – our current tactics just don’t bring the best out of him – while also damningly suggesting that he’s been dropped for not offering “intensity” or “pressing.” In essence, for not working hard enough defensively.
And why has Rodgers been forced to revise tactics? Because of bad form caused in part by Balotelli’s sheer ineffectiveness (no Premier League goals this season).
Doesn’t sound like there’s a clear path back into a regular starting place for Balotelli, unless his game undergoes a remarkable transformation.
“That’s the key for us — that real aggressive pressure at the top end of the field. It gives us the platform to go and dominate the ball,” Rodgers added.
“There’s been a lot of work gone into that. We haven’t just stumbled across this system. A lot of thinking time has gone into how we can maximize the players we have in order to be as close to our game model as we would like.”
It’s a far cry from the optimism Rodgers projected when Balotelli joined from AC Milan for $25 million in August: “I believe we have the infrastructure, culture and environment to get the best out of him and help him achieve his true potential. We are a strong group here, committed to hard work and he will benefit from being around it.”