Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Where does the £16m striker fit into Brendan Rodgers' team?

Could his arrival signal a move out wide for Sturridge? Or will Rodgers use the diamond that was so effective when Luis Suarez was in the team?

Plenty of question marks have been raised since Liverpool confirmed the £16m signing of Italian striker Mario Balotelli from AC Milan.

Read more: Reds will need Balotelli to recover their lost killer touch
Balotelli takes seat at the Etihad
Match report: Man City 3 Liverpool 1
Player ratings

Balotelli’s talent and potential has never been in question, but the 24-year-old has often sulked his way through bad performances, while his off-field antics could fill their own episode of You’ve Been Framed. When scoring goals he’s a player capable of getting into the world’s best sides, but his attitude and personality haven’t allowed him to push on to the next level.

In his final 14 appearances as a Manchester City player he scored just one goal, before moving to Milan and scoring 12 in the same number of games.

Brendan Rodgers will now have to find a way to get Balotelli playing to his best as well as working out how best to use the striker, who is much less versatile than the man he is indirectly replacing, Luis Suarez.

Last season, Rodgers switched between a number of formations, using 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and even a 4-4-2 diamond as his attacking side ripped through the Premier League at a swashbuckling pace. Luis Suarez will be an extremely tough act to follow

The key man to their success, of course, was Suarez whose dribbling skills, pace and movement meant he was more often than not free to roam the pitch and find space, causing destruction wherever he picked up the ball.

This allowed Daniel Sturridge to occupy the central area, though he was free to drift out to the right, and act as a poacher while Suarez was more of an all-round dynamo. On top of his league-leading 31 goals Suarez was also second in the league in assists with 12, one behind Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, and according to Opta created 241 chances last season.

Balotelli was only credited with one assist during his time as a Manchester City player and created six in Serie A last season, though of course the numbers are imperfect because of team-mate error. Sturridge was credited with seven and is hardly known for his team play – he has often been criticised for being too greedy during his career; Balotelli is hardly known as the ideal team-mate either.

Rodgers has already said that he will consider the diamond again with these two strikers, but without Suarez’s versatility and willingness to go wide, collect the ball and run at defenders, Liverpool’s new partnership could find themselves jostling for position in the box as both want to be the main man up front.

The formation could also leave Liverpool dangerously exposed at the back – they struggled defensively last season and were torn apart by Manchester City at the Etihad. Some of that is to do with Rodgers’ attacking intent but the formation and the attacking players often leave their defenders awfully exposed. Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring the winner for Liverpool against Southampton Daniel Sturridge likes to operate as the main man up front

Raheem Sterling’s continued development mean he would likely start on the right hand side of the diamond while Philippe Coutinho would probably start at the attacking tip. Both of those players are keen workers but they have neither the defensive instincts nor physical capability to truly compete with the best midfielders.

Jordan Henderson is a solid box-to-box player but Steven Gerrard is another whose defensive weakness could spell trouble. He was rejuvenated and reinvented as an attacking force last season in the quarterback role, pulling strings and becoming a key reason for Liverpool scoring all those goals on their way to a title bid.

However, against the very best, he allows room and space in the gap between the midfield and attack. David Silva was quiet at the Etihad but he all too often found room in between the lines - Stevan Jovetic was not tracked when he fired in his second goal.

Glen Johnson is much-criticised because of his poor defensive play, while Alberto Moreno made a costly error on his debut and both Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel are perhaps a level below the very best centre-backs in the league. Brendan Rodgers smiles at a press conference Brendan Rodgers has plenty of questions to ponder

With Adam Lallana yet to play a game and new signings Lazar Markovic and Rickie Lambert also in the mix, it will be interesting to see how he uses his squad.

Time will tell and Rodgers has said he will use a flexible approach to his formation and personnel - Luis Suarez was always going to be impossible to replace and Rodgers has got a player capable of developing into one of the best, despite his troubles.

Suggested Topics
News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing