Another week of Mario Balotelli stories and I cannot help thinking he is an easy target. There are some players at Liverpool getting away with murder while Balotelli cops a lot of the stick.
His name, his reputation, even his body language on the pitch, they all add up to the kind of player who attracts criticism. It does not detract from the reality that Liverpool lost Luis Suarez, their best player and key goalscorer last season, and their next best striker, Daniel Sturridge, has been injured for so long. It is a basic truth that good forwards make the whole team look better.
Sturridge will give Liverpool that when he returns. He is a top-quality player who can take defenders on and score. I also think he will make Balotelli look a better player. I don’t think Balotelli scores highly when it comes to the basics you look for in a striker – movement, finishing, work rate – but his form, the goal against Swansea aside, is just part of the problem at Liverpool.
Balotelli has taken the spotlight off some of the other summer signings. Dejan Lovren has struggled. Lazar Markovic has not scored and he cost £20m. Alberto Moreno is quick but is yet to convince as a defender. Adam Lallana is the only one who looks like he is comfortable with the shift, and at £25m he was overpriced.
I recognise Brendan Rodgers needed a bigger squad, but they should have gone for fewer players and greater quality. Balotelli cannot take the blame for all of that.