Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has pleaded with fans to give under-fire striker Mario Balotelli time to settle at Anfield, in response to the Italians slow start at the club.
Balotelli arrived on the shores of the River Mersey this summer for £16 million from AC Milan, however, he has yet to make a real impact.
In nine games, the Italian has scored just one goal, which was in the Champions League against Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad.
However, Rodgers believes that the 24-year-old is a work in progress and eventually will click into place.
“He is seen as the direct replacement for Luis Suarez. And as I said before, Luis is irreplaceable." - Brendan Rodger on Balotelli
“It will drop for the boy. The most important thing for me is his work rate," Rodgers said during the post-match press conference after Liverpool's 3-2 away defeat of QPR.
"The guy is doing his best and working really hard and it is not dropping for him. I would say he would have finished that if Caulker had not put it in.
“He is seen as the direct replacement for Luis Suarez. And as I said before, Luis is irreplaceable. A real world class talent and that is not what is being asked of Mario."
Balotelli has been poor, to say the least, during his time on Merseyside. £16 million looked a fair price for him when the deal was announced, and got fans excited due to his talent, however he is not showing that ability.
'Super Mario' put in yet another dismal display against QPR on Sunday, giving the ball away too easily and not offering himself enough for his team-mates. His afternoon was summed up when he skied over his effort from seven yards out in the second half, despite there being an open goal ahead of him.
It seems that Balotelli does not want to adopt the Liverpool style of quick, counter-attacking football, and prefers to play how he wants. This is doing him, nor his side any use, as it's creating problems when going forwards, slowing the play down and leaving his team-mates helpless.
Time for change?
Despite Daniel Sturridge being sidelined for a further two to four weeks with a calf injury, Rodgers has both Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini sitting amongst the Liverpool substitutes.
Although they may not be as naturally gifted as the former Manchester City man, they give their whole heart every game.
They also score goals.
Both Lambert and Borini are proven goal-scorers in the top flight. The former netted 28 goals for Southampton in the past two seasons and Borini notched seven goals when on loan at Sunderland last term, despite The Black Cats spending most of their time in a relegation battle.
When the pair have played this season, they have both shown a superb desire to work for their team-mates and missed some decent chances. This is something that Balotelli is not doing and Rodgers must be bold enough to leave him out of the Liverpool team.
In defence of Balotelli, he looks very much isolated when leading the Liverpool line.
Despite the Italian usually having two wingers around him, he struggles to really link up with the wide players. It is not the type of football he is used to, as Balotelli likes to build a relationship with a strike-partner.
On his debut against Tottenham Hotspur, 'Super Mario' linked extremely well with Daniel Sturridge, and the pairing got Liverpool fans excited about the potential partnership between the two.
Unfortunately, the England International has been side-lined since September and not been able to build on that relationship. It's been visible for weeks that Balotelli is uncomfortable and not suited to playing up-top on his own.
We saw in the 2-1 victory against Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League, when Balotelli notched his only goal in a Red shirt, that he played much better with a strike-partner. Borini came on when the game was 0-0 and the two linked well, freeing up space for one-another and changing the whole dynamic of the way Liverpool played.
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