Balotelli under fire as pressure builds ahead of the Merseyside Derby
It’s been a tough build-up for both Liverpool and Everton ahead of the Merseyside Derby at Anfield.
I think both Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez are under pressure heading into this game because they’ve both had fabulous seasons last year and as a result the expectation levels are higher.
Liverpool have sold Luis Suarez and have subsequently lost a bit of that ‘total football’ they had last season, certainly in the last couple of games.
The silky passing and movement that was on show before has seemingly deserted them.
But both sides are under equal amounts of pressure, especially when you consider the number of goals Everton have conceded in their opening games.
One other topic of conversation that has come up frequently is Liverpool’s purchase of Mario Balotelli and how effective he can be for the team.
On the face of it Balotelli doesn’t look like a Liverpool player. The one thing Rodgers demanded from Suarez and Daniel Sturridge was absolute movement.
Balotelli stands still more than he moves around so Liverpool are having to get used to him, he’s not having to get used to them.
That’s a problem in itself. Whether Brendan is happy to accept that, I don’t know, I’m not in the dressing room.
At the moment he’s still a class player but the system that Liverpool have got suffers when he’s in the team.
Tottenham not quite top four material
In the other big derby of the weekend two massive rivals, as well as top four contenders, clash with Arsenal hosting Tottenham.
At Spurs they’ve got a new manager in Mauricio Pochettino and one or two new players trying to bed in.
As it stands, the only team that you’d say have successfully bedded in players is Chelsea.
From the Tottenham players’ point of view it’s all about getting used to the manager and how he wants to play.
They’d have wanted to avoid Arsenal at this stage of the season. Out of Spurs and Arsenal you’d be more confident that the Gunners will finish the campaign in the top four.
I’m not sure if Tottenham have the squad to finish in that kind of position at the moment.
All of the other teams vying for one of those Champions League spots are a little indifferent but whichever of Liverpool, Everton or Spurs settles best will be the ones that kick on.
It looks nailed on for Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal to finish in the top three with one other side claiming that precious fourth position.
What are my own derby memories? I remember my first derby as a 17-year-old playing for Portsmouth against Southampton.
We lost 3-0 on Boxing Day!
Derbies are always special. They used to mean more for the players, now it means more for the fans than some of those on the pitch who regard it as just another fixture.
Koeman has to be a candidate for Manager of the Month
Ronald Koeman has done a fantastic job for Southampton so far and I can’t wait to see the Saints in action when I cover their game against QPR on Saturday.
He’s replaced the outgoing players with decent signings. They were excellent against West Ham and Newcastle recently and also at Arsenal in the Capital One Cup earlier in the week.
As a result you’d have to say the Dutchman is one of the main contenders for the Manager of the Month prize.
One man key to their success has been Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin. He’s top drawer, I understand why Pochettino wanted to sign him.
And yet the new manager has done wonders in getting him to turn in performances that are even better than last season’s.
Koeman turned up at the football club and Schneiderlin had absolutely no loyalty towards the new man in charge.
He knows that his former boss Pochettino wants to take him to Spurs with him having already seen the likes of Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana leave which was obviously a concern.
So, for Koeman to come in and get Schneiderlin’s mind on the job in the way that he has is brilliant.
Maybe he’s told Schneiderlin that if he does the business and a really big club comes in for him that he won’t stand in his way.
Whatever he’s said to him it’s worked and really improved the Frenchman’s game.
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