| 5.5°C Dublin

No plan b at Liverpool

BRENDAN Rodgers claimed that he had no choice but to sign Mario Balotelli right on the transfer deadline in August but I'm not sure about that. You always have a choice.

His words about Balotelli brought back into focus something I've wondered about for some time. Did Liverpool not have a Plan B to cope with the loss of Luis Suarez?

It seems to me that Suarez was always just passing through, particularly after he bit Branislav Ivanovic. When you add the Patrice Evra incident to the pile, it was a matter of certainty to me that he was not a man you could build a team around.

In an immediate sense, when Rodgers got the job, there was no better man at Anfield to build around but let's face it there wasn't a football fan on the planet who didn't know that Suarez came with a health warning.

It would have been prudent if not absolutely vital for Rodgers or this transfer committee to be working away in the background to add another striker or two to the mix as a hedge against another set of blaring headlines surrounding their Uruguayan goal scorer which duly arrived during the World Cup.

Refreshing and improving a squad should always be an ongoing process. Just because the referee blows the whistle for the opening game in a season, that should not mean that the work of player acquisition stops

In fact, as we have seen with Alex Ferguson over the years and Jose Mourinho more recently, the hard work in securing a transfer is done during the season when games are coming thick and fast.

That's when the scouting happens and if we're honest, that's when agents and people from clubs tasked with signing players are talking.

When Suarez sank his teeth into Giorgio Chiellini, Liverpool should have already been beavering away in the background looking for goalscoring talent and not even because he was a walking time bomb.

"Daniel Sturridge has shown in his career, so far, that he gets injuries. So, to go with no one would have been very difficult for us.

"It would be unfair to leave Rickie Lambert maybe as a 32-year-old as the only striker we had. I felt this was a risk we needed to take with Mario because as a group we couldn't afford not to at the time. It was late on and we needed to have someone in. It's something that we can't regret."

This is what Rodgers said on Saturday and presumably, if he believed back in July or beforehand that Sturridge's fitness was flaky, it should have been an absolute priority to find another striker long before Suarez lost it in Brazil.

Maybe it was. Maybe he gave the transfer committee we've been hearing about a list of names back in 2013 and told them to go sign them but the only evidence of that is Lambert.

Maybe they haven't been up to the job or maybe the money wasn't there initially but it was certainly there in July and I have to say, you won't find many Liverpool fans who would accept that the club got value for the money spent during the summer.

I'm not sure what this says about Rodgers although my gut feeling is that the problem here is not the manager but the committee at Anfield which is supposed to find talent.

Perhaps there was some reticence among the big names in the game when it came to moving to Anfield but if the money is right, players will go anywhere now.

The end result, of course, of what appears to be a failure to plan properly, is that Balotelli has been hanging around the club like a dark cloud and after the scandals and controversies attached to Suarez, the last thing we needed was more of the same.

That's why I can't accept the idea that Rodgers had 'no choice' but to sign him. He's had his best results for a while with Balotelli injured and Ricky Lambert up front so his suggestion that it would be 'unfair' to put so much weight on a veteran's shoulders doesn't stack up.


For the £16m he spent, surely there was a player out there capable of contributing more than Balotelli has done? Just as an example, he could have signed Shane Long, currently playing his part in a Southampton team which is in a Champions League position while Liverpool try to make up lost ground.

Rodgers has a got a grip on things now and he has a huge game against Basel to come.

Win that one and he can put the Champions League knock-out phase in the bank until the New Year and do whatever it takes to get someone in who can really help Lambert while Rodgers waits for Sturridge.

So far, Balotelli's contribution has been entirely in the negative and even if Rodgers doesn't find someone who can score ten goals between January and April during the coming window, I would still show him the door.