Sarah Fitzpatrick discusses the merits of playing both Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli in Liverpool’s starting XI.
The talk surrounding Liverpool lately has been focused on their current striker ‘crisis’ due to exit of Luis Suarez and the lengthy injury of Daniel Sturridge. As well as this, the new striking reinforcements Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli who joined the club in the summer are being criticised for their lack of form since the beginning of the season.
Rodgers has attempted to deal with the absence of Sturridge by playing Balotelli as a lone striker, which has proved to be unsuccessful in the Premier League this season and it seems that the idea of the lone striker isn’t the way for Liverpool to move forward while Sturridge is on the sidelines.
Liverpool played Swansea in the League Cup this week and the dramatic last ten minutes of the game showed glimpses of a potential striking partnership that could fill the Sturridge void as Fabio Borini looked comfortable and capable alongside his fellow countryman Balotelli.
Fabio Borini is seen as the forgotten man at Anfield and he has been unbelievably unfortunate since he joined Liverpool. The Italian striker has had injury after injury but did enjoy a successful loan deal at Sunderland last season which he refused to make permanent in the summer.
Borini has been left out of the squad for most of this season and has even lost his place as the Italian darling of the kop as the Liverpool Echo stated this week,
“even his song from the Kop had been allocated to another Italian striker. It is Mario, not Fabio, who is now fantastico and magnifico”.
Borini was given a chance to prove himself against Swansea on Tuesday night and he did just that as he helped inspire the Reds to a late victory by providing a fantastic cross to his fellow countryman Balotelli, which inspired the dramatic ending at Anfield. There were plenty of positives from Borini’s performance compared to Rickie Lambert’s which was luke-warm at best.
Borini showed determination and a never say die attitude which is crucial to any Liverpool player. Swansea left back Neil Taylor had a tough night marking Borini as the little Italian never gave up on the right wing and his determination paid off when he found space in the 86th minute to put in a sublime cross to Balotelli for the equaliser.
This determination has also been seen off the pitch such as when he could have easily left Anfield in the summer but instead decided to stay so he could prove himself at a club in Europe. This type of determination is needed in the current Liverpool side, especially alongside Balotelli who isn’t one to show a huge amount of passion or determination on the pitch.
As well as determination, Borini is a flexible player who can either play up front or on the wing, which makes him more adaptable than Lambert and Balotelli while he can also fill in the gaps while Sturridge is out injured and young winger Markovic is still adapting to English football.
Borini also has pace, skill and shooting in his game while he is only lacking goals in his game as he has only netted twice in 24 games, but that could be due to a lack of a run of games at Liverpool. As well as this, Borini is still only 23 years of age so he is far from being the finished product as of yet.
Even though it seems that Mario Balotelli has been around for a long time, he is only 24 and arguably still a player who is trying to learn and develop in the modern game. Balotelli had high expectations placed on him when he arrived at Anfield in August and has been handed a chunk of the blame for Liverpool’s sloppy start to the season.
Although, it could be seen that Balotelli isn’t suited to the lone striker role at Liverpool and it may ease his troubles if Rodgers gave him a partner up front, such as Borini until Sturridge returns from injury. In games where Balotelli has played the lone striker role, he has been seen out of position numerous times and fails to get to crosses into the box as he is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Giving Balotelli a partner up front would help him stay in position as he will have someone to play off of and link up with which will only increase his chances of getting into dangerous positions to score goals. The lone striker role has also seen Liverpool score less goals this season and often when Liverpool attack they seem to have very few players in the box and a lack of options to create chances.
Playing two strikers rather than one will see an increase in options when Liverpool go on the attack and they would have more options in the box during set pieces, which they don’t seem to create much from at the moment. Liverpool played two strikers up front (Sturridge and Balotelli) in their three nil win over Tottenham, which was easily their most impressive performance this season so it should be a tactic that should be implemented by Rodgers more often this season.
Italian legend Andrea Pirlo believes that support and love will drive Balotelli forward as he stated,
“He needs to be loved, he needs direction, but most importantly he needs to know that the coach believes in him”, and giving him a partner up front could give him the direction and the support he needs both on and off the pitch.”
The perfect opportunity for Rodgers to try out a Balotelli and Borini partnership would be against Newcastle this weekend as attempting to play Balotelli up front on his own would be a big mistake by Rodgers as it is a tactic that is clearly not working.
A change in the formation that Liverpool have been playing recently in the Premier League could help them rescue their season and it could help Balotelli settle into the team while Borini could prove himself as a Liverpool player and put all his past misfortunes behind him.
It is important for Liverpool to find a back up plan when it comes to their strike force as they can’t completely rely on Sturridge due to his misfortune with injuries recently. The Balotelli and Borini strike force may or may not work but it is worth a try and who knows the Kop may be singing “Mario Magnifico, Fabio Fantastico” one day.
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena