Scapegoats don’t come much more natural than Mario Balotelli, who has borne the brunt of recriminations in the aftermath of Liverpool’s Champions League defeat in Basel.
However, the fact that that £16m man cut a disconsolate and isolated figure may have as much to do with Brendan Rodgers’ way of playing as his ineffectiveness.
The Reds boss offered a less than ringing endorsement of his striker’s St Jakob-Park showing, saying:
“He worked hard, (but) needs to do more.”
“He will be judged on what he creates and what he scores and he didn’t score”
Yet, given similar travails are threatening to sour Rickie Lambert’s dream return to the club who rejected him as a teenager, could it be that Liverpool are failing their centre-forwards rather than the other way round?
Lambert is not a bad player, nor does his moderate pace and movement preclude him from weighing in with strong performances.
Last term his 13 goals for Southampton made him the fourth-highest English scorer in the Premier League, also assisting more than any Three Lions eligible player bar Steven Gerrard.
Neither is Balotelli, who bagged 30 goals in 54 appearances during two seasons at AC Milan, suddenly a bad player.
As a result it’s necessary to question the wisdom of those ultimately responsible for bringing two old-school centre-forwards to Anfield.
Liverpool thrived last season on an attacking system of chameleonic interchangeability.
All three members of a pacey and elusive vanguard swapped position on a regular basis, causing mayhem in opposition defences.
Target men and the noble arts of hold-up play and line-leading were conspicuous by their absence – Rodgers admitted as much by dubbing nominal centre-forward Daniel Sturridge his ‘nine-and-a-half’.
Instead of asking Balotelli or Lambert to replicate Sturridge’s modus operandi, the Reds need to adapt their style of play to the strengths of the men they have brought in if they are to get the best out of their acquisitions.
Next up, Liverpool are skinny 2/5 to dispose of a West Brom side that they have failed to beat in five of their last seven Premier League meetings.
The 9/5 about the Baggies in the double-chance betting looks quite a way to make a living.