After supporting Mario Balotelli for much of the season following a questionable summer purchase, Brendan Rodgers has turned his back on the struggling Italian striker.
Sporting a new 3-at-the-back system – which struggled mightily against Manchester United before taking hold in their unlucky 2-2 draw with Arsenal – Rodgers has claimed he switched to the new formation because it is tailored to his squad’s strengths, but Balotelli could be a victim of the change.
“I think we’ve seen that it’s not really his game,” Rodgers said of Balotelli.
Balotelli is back from his 1-match suspension thanks to a social media slip-up, but he likely won’t feature much in their Boxing Day fixture at Burnley, since Rodgers has changed to a formation involving much more running, energy, and vitality than Rodgers thinks Balotelli is capable of.
“Having worked with Mario during the time he’s been here, we’ve seen that he’s a player who 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. The most important thing is that he’s now available after his ban. That adds another player to our squad, especially with Fabio Borini not being available because of suspension.”
This is a mind-boggling realization, not because it’s untrue, but because it’s the first time we’ve seen Rodgers fully turn his back on Balotelli. Back in October, Rodgers said, “You are never too old to learn. They key is if you want to learn. And I think Mario does. He is getting the support. That’s what happens when you come to this club. You don’t have any excuses. The people here, the supporters, the players, the staff. They will back every [new] player. The environment here that has been created is so there are no egos. They just want to improve and do their work. Mario will get that support.”
Well, it’s obvious that Mario has refused to learn the new style of playing, and that may be why he’s not receiving the same kind of support from Rodgers anymore.
Whatever the reason, Balotelli could be losing the backing of his club and those making the decisions. “We’re at our best when our game’s aggressive,” said Rodgers. “We’ve had to adapt this year in terms of how we’ve played because of the personnel.”
Unfortunately, Balotelli’s itchy trigger finger has seen more and more shots provide fans with a souvenir, losing possession and ending attacks. With Rodgers looking to play a high-pressing style, that’s not going to endear Balotelli to his manager and their new style of play.