Saturday 24 March 2018

Five things we learned from Liverpool's draw with West Brom as Mario Balotelli suffers again

Liverpool's Mario Balotelli in action with West Brom's Gareth McAuley
Reuters / Darren Staples
Liverpool's Mario Balotelli in action with West Brom's Gareth McAuley Reuters / Darren Staples Livepic

Mario Balotelli looks like a lose cause for Liverpool after he failed to fire in the 0-0 draw at West Bromwich Albion - and other big talking points at the Hawthorns.

1. Mario Balotelli is a lost cause

You woud have been forgiven for forgetting that Mario Balotelli was still a Liverpool player, such has been his lack of any meaningful impact at the club since the turn of the year.

But Brendan Rodgers gave him a chance to show Liverpool fans - and, perhaps more importantly, potential summer suitors - that he still has the drive and desire to make an impact at the highest level, Sadly, this was another occasion which simply passed him by.

Beyond one fiercely-struck half-volley which went just over, Balotelli's impact was negligible, as he drifted into innocuous areas of the field far too often.

His runs were either too predictable or non-existent, the few dangerous crosses LIverpool did produce flashed by without him even in the frame and he failed to have a shot in anger in the 74 minutes he managed before being substituted.

Liverpool's more pressing problem at the end of the season might be less about getting the best out of Balotelli, and more about getting rid of him.


2. Rodgers must get Sturridge firing again

Linked to Balotelli's woes is the disappearing act carried out by Daniel Sturridge.

The England striker's intolerance to injuries of any kind - he takes the Dutch approach of never playing when he does not feel fully fit - has meant that he has played just a third of Liverpool's games this season.

Sturridge is unlikely to change his attitude, so Rodgers simply has to devise a fitness programme which will enable him to play more next season - because too often, Liverpool look toothless in his absence. Either that or - as he threatened on the morning of today's match - buy a striker who is more reliable.


3. Steven Gerrard's fairytales just aren't coming true

After the dreadful disappointment of seeing his FA Cup dreams thwarted, Steven Gerrard might at least have thought that Fate would throw him a bone on the occasion of his 500th appearance in the Premier League.

But this appears to be one season when his fairytales are being shredded before his very eyes: there was no goal for the midfielder, and few sparks of inspiration in a game that was crying out for a creative lift.

There was a free-kick which drifted just over at the end of the first half and a shot from the edge of the area late on, but otherwise Gerrard was subdued. Just five games left for him to leave one last precious memory for his fans, both at Anfield and beyond.


4. Would Liverpool be better finishing seventh?

Now that Liverpool's top-four ambitions look effectively dead, the question has to be asked whether they would be better off finishing seventh rather than in the top six.

The latter yields a place in the dreaded Europa League, and all the attendant dreariness that entails - Thursday night football, long journeys to out-of-the-way footballing outposts and the inevitably corrosive impact on Premier League form.

Brendan Rodgers would never admit it, of course, and Liverpool's competitive instincts are such that they will always seek to finish as high as possible.

True, seventh place could still result in Europa League football (provided Aston Villa win the FA Cup), but if there is a way of avoiding the most disliked competition in football, it would be plain common sense to take it.


5. Saido Berahino did not impress on audition day

Just over four months ago, West Brom felt compelled to issue a statement saying Saido Berahino was not about to sign for Liverpool in a £23m deal.

On the basis of what they saw at the Hawthorns today, Brendan Rodgers will be grateful he kept his chequebook in his pocket.

The England under-21 international has now gone seven games without a goal for West Brom and did not last the distance here. It still seems likely he will leave at the end of the season, but quite who will be buying him is anyone's guess.

Online Editors

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