Liverpool’s loss to Chelsea highlighted much more than Gary Cahill’s expert goalkeeping abilities, it proved once and for all that playing Mario Balotelli at the apex of a 4-3-3 system in the Premier League is a flawed plan.
Having played roulette by signing the mercurial AC Milan striker this summer, Brendan Rodgers has persisted with fielding Balotelli week-in, week-out in the league while Daniel Sturridge remains crocked.
The Northern Irishman’s refusal to budge in his striker selection policy is by no means the sole reason Liverpool’s title-challenge is in tatters and their odds for the top four have widened significantly to 19/10 from heavily odds-on at the outset.
However, it’s certainly one of the core issues. Balotelli is yet to score a single Premier League goal, but that’s not even half of the problem.
The former Manchester City forward is not suited to holding the ball up and has lacked the killer instinct at the vital moments this season.
It is high time Rodgers showed some faith in the man he brought in from Southampton for £4m instead.
Whereas Balotelli has publicly bemoaned his lone-striker role, this position is the one Lambert excelled in at St Mary’s and the Liverpudlian he deserves his chance to fulfil it at Anfield.
Lambert has notched 28 Premier League goals over the past two seasons, but has only started one game for his new club in the competition.
Incidentally Liverpool won that match at home to West Brom, while the majority of the time the England international has been thrown on very late into games as a substitute.
What Lambert did so well for Southampton was link the play to allow the quicker, flair players to run in behind teams, and this is something Liverpool are desperately lacking this season.
Sturridge’s expected return is sure to influence things, but Rodgers should put round pegs in round holes.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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