The vultures are circling around Anfield, Brendan Rodgers is now the bookmakers favourite to be the first manager to be sacked from the Premier League this season, a run of 6 games without a win has not helped Liverpool’s cause and has put the manager on some shaky ground.
A run of 5 consecutive defeats was stopped when the Reds drew 2-2 away in the UEFA Champions League against Bulgarian outfit, Ludogorets, they were leading the game 2-1 when they suffered another defensive lapse and conceded a late goal from a corner, an ailment that has plagued Liverpool since Rodgers took over the reign for the Anfield club.
A positive that Liverpool did not lose the game might be stretching it, but a result away from home, coupled with Basel losing to Real Madrid keeps Liverpool’s destiny in their own hands, a win at home against Basel in two weeks time and they would qualify for the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League.
There was another positive to take from the midweek fixture; Rickie Lambert scored his second goal in as many games for the Anfield club. Lambert, who has been overlooked for most of the season for Balotelli, now seems to be repaying his manager. The only reason he started was because Balotelli was injured from his training with the Italian national squad and with Daniel Sturridge injured till the New Year, it would make sense for Rodgers to play with the English striker rather than give Balotelli the lone striker starting spot in the team.
The English way
Lambert isn’t just good in the air; his goal against Ludogorets was both a goal due to strong aerial presence and perseverance as he nodded the ball into the back of the net when the Ludogorets defenders went off to sleep.
Mario Balotelli would not be able to pull this off, no disrespect meant to the player or his ability but he just will not go into headers or run into the box chasing the ball for a lost cause, Lambert did that for the first goal and was willing to run all around for the club.
Liverpool need help from all quarters and a player willing to give 100% to the cause by making it tough for the other defenders is what Liverpool need, Mario is good on the ball but getting the ball to him is the issue, he doesn’t go into headers as much as Lambert and neither is he very good in the air.
If we compare both players and their performances in the Champions League, Balotelli having played 3 games and Lambert only 2. Lambert wins on an average 3 aerial duels per game while Balotelli only wins 0.33 duels per game, which is a damning stat for the Italian, if we are to only look at the physical attributes. (Stats from Squawka.com)
Lambert also averages a goal every other game when playing in the UEFA Champions League while Balotelli has one goal from his 3 games, Balotelli has regularly played for the club as well in the Premier League while Lambert has only made bit part appearances, mostly as a substitute.
Liverpool now have 3 games before they take on Basel in that all important fixture in the Champions League. Stoke, Leicester City and Sunderland all take on Liverpool and Rodgers has to make a decision to either play Mario Balotelli again or keep the faith in Lambert.
Balotelli has looked out of sorts when playing for the club, he however has started to make a few runs to stretch defences but his finishing is lacking and he looks like a player bereft of confidence. The £16 million striker was brought in to score the goals but has hardly looked like a player who can fit the goal scoring mould. Lambert has a record of scoring goals in every level of football he has played at and is perfectly suited to the English game.
He should start against Stoke City, who are a bit of a tough team to play against; Lambert would be a player who would relish the opportunity to play against a team that is physical. He would also be confident of continuing his goal scoring run for his boyhood club, Lambert could be the shining light in a season that has really been poor for Liverpool, this is his time and he can make the best use of it.
Picture courtesy: The Independent & The Guardian