The most trying period of Brendan Rodgers’ tenure at Liverpool has just begun. After being humiliated 3-0 by Real Madrid in their Champions League meeting, Mario Balotelli, has once again landed himself in the headlines. After exchanging shirts with Pepe while walking off the pitch at halftime, he is now being investigated for threatening a woman over her taking pictures of his Ferrari. We can all assume that Balotelli will not be a part of the starting lineup for the upcoming match against Hull City.
There are other issues that Rodgers has to deal with, the team has continued to concede goals at an alarming rate and the goals have dried up. Even though the team scored three goals against QPR last weekend, two of them were own goals. Against Madrid, the team started well, pressing and bothering the Spanish attack, but after the pressing stopped, the team could not defend. There were so many holes that Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo exploited. On the other half of the field, Pepe and Raphael Varane crushed any threatening Liverpool attack quickly, the team could not get any clean shot against Iker Casillas.
After bringing Balotelli off, the team looked much more effective with Raheem Sterling leading the line. Rodgers has yet to settle to one truly effective formation for his team, he has tried out the 4-3-3 the past two games but maybe he should try it with Sterling in Balotelli’s role.
Rodgers has no other choice to continue to start Simon Mignolet, even after his terrible performance during the first half. The Belgian was all over the place, consistently caught in no man’s land during most of the goals and unable to communicate with his defenders when defending corners. Looks like the departure of Pepe Reina is coming back to haunt the club.
After Glen Johnson started the past two games, Liverpool fans were once again reminded of how ineffective he really is. Johnson consistently allowed Ronaldo to cut into his right foot and he looked completely over-matched during the entire game. Hopefully the more capable Javier Manquillo can return to the lineup for the next match. The young Spaniard should be able to deal with the left side of the Hull attack which usually consists of Andrew Robertson and Stephen Quinn.
The pairing of Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren has been the choice for Rodgers the last few weeks after Mamadou Sakho’s injury. Both were overrun by the pace and skill of the Madrid attack, but they are the best that Rodgers currently has. They have been left out to dry by the midfield on multiple occasions but the lack of communication between the entire defense has been evident, especially when the team concedes goals to teams such as QPR. Aside from getting more help from those higher up the field, one of the defenders has to step up and hold everyone accountable in order for the team as a whole to improve.
Alberto Moreno has been consistent but also underwhelming in his past few matches. Fans witnessed his remarkable talent when he scored against Tottenham but he has been unable to replicate that since. He will face a capable duo of Jake Livermore and Ahmed Elmohamady, both are capable attackers and he could be challenged constantly.
In his first game back after a rather lengthy injury spell, Joe Allen did not look that sharp. He should be able to get back into his groove in this next match. His presence allows Steven Gerrard to move up the field to help out in attack. The captain is starting to slow down but hopefully the energy of Allen will allow him to have more freedom. Jordan Henderson was subbed in the second half of the last match, probably because Rodgers wanted to have him well-rested for this weekend. He is an essential part of the lineup and his passing will continue to be one of his best assets.
The front line of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana has not been used this season, but this could be the answer to Liverpool’s attacking woes. Rodgers could definitely put a striker such as Rickie Lambert or Fabio Borini in the lone striker role but this particular trio offers pace, passing and creativity. Sterling is already the team’s leading scorer and Lallana will be returning to the position that he played when he was in Southampton.