10 hours, six minutes and counting. That’s how long Mario Balotelli has been on the pitch in a Liverpool jersey and failed to score a league goal. In the time it would have taken for you to watch the entire first season of Game of Thrones, plus the first episode of season two, Balotelli has been failing to open his Premier League account for the Reds. But it’s hardly for the lack of trying. Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero is the only top flight player to average more shots per game than Balotelli, so the question posed to Liverpool gaffer Brendan Rodgers is, how do you solve a problem like Mario?
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- Will Balotelli find his goalscoring form this weekend? The latest odds are just a click away: Desktop | Mobile
The Italian striker has attempted a whopping 34 shots on goal in the league this season, which equates to 4.3 shots per game. To put that into some kind of context, Sergio Aguero has averaged 4.9 shots a game, Graziano Pelle has racked up 4.3 shots a game and Diego Costa has had just 2.9 attempts per match. He’s having the same number of attempts as these players, but failing to convert his chances. Nobody in the Premier League has had as many attempts from inside the six yard box as Balotelli (four) and still failed to score.
The problem for Balotelli appears to be that he simply doesn’t have his radar on. Of his 34 shots, just 12 have been on target – that’s just 35 per cent. Aguero leading the line for City has a shot accuracy of 53 per cent, and Chelsea’s star man Diego Costa has a shot accuracy of 70 per cent. At the risk of sounding like a Sky Sports pundit, you’ve got more chance of scoring if you’re hitting the target, and thus far Mario isn’t doing either.
Despite his League Cup goal against Swansea, there are plenty of Liverpool fans losing patience with Brendan Rodgers’ £16m summer signing, and it’s not just his shooting that’s an issue. Balotelli has lost the ball or miscontrolled it 28 times this season and 12 of his 16 dribbles have resulted in him giving the ball away. Whereas last season Luis Suarez provided, not only the league’s most prolific attack, but also Liverpool’s first line of defence by pressuring the ball high up the pitch. In contrast Balotelli has made just 11 tackles, but managed to commit a ridiculous 18 fouls.
Clearly though, Brendan Rodgers feels he can succeed where Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho failed, and bring the best out of Balotelli.
This weekend Liverpool host league leaders Chelsea at Anfield. It’s the perfect opportunity for Mario Balotelli to kick on from his League Cup goal and open his Premier League account and it would be typical of the striker to save his best performance for the big stage. Liverpool are the 12/5 outsiders to stop Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten run, and Mario Balotelli is 13/2 to open the scoring. He’s 7/2 to be the first Liverpool goalscorer and 2/1 to score a goal at anytime in the match.
If Balotelli is to win over the majority of the Liverpool faithful, you’d feel he has to start upping his game sooner rather than later, and this game could be his chance to kick-start his campaign.
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