Mario Balotelli: Shirt swapping just one of his struggles

Mario Balotelli

It has not been an ideal start to the Italian’s Liverpool career

Controversy follows Mario Balotelli like teenage girls follow One Direction. The rebellious forward is facing disciplinary action for his decision to swap shirts with Real Madrid’s Pepe at half time last night. Although arguably a tame transgression by the striker’s standards , it has unsurprisingly attracted the ire of Brendan Rodgers, who publicly rebuked Mamadou Sakho for the very same thing last season.

It is little surprise that the Italian bad boy has been making the headlines for the wrong reasons. However, one could forgive Rodger’s for believing that they would have been counterbalanced – at least in part – by some positive press. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Controversy aside, Balotelli’s career trajectory seems to have mirrored the plight of his employer: the once sublime has become conspicuously subpar.

At times this season Balotelli has cut a sullen figure, playing with the surly nonchalance and greed of a five-a-side player who thinks he’s better than everyone else. The statistics only serve to corroborate this perception. In six Premier League appearances he has failed to score, managing thirty attempts on goal and nine shots on target (a shot accuracy of 30%).

His distribution statistics also leave a lot to be desired. He has successfully passed the ball a mere seventy-five times, with no successful crosses, no assists and only four chances created. These numbers paint a picture of a player who opts to shoot speculatively instead of seeking out his more advantageously positioned teammates.

As one would expect, Balotelli’s mediocre performances have been reflected in his PlayON scores. A points per game average of 622 is somewhat massaged by his shots on target statistics. However, it is still not good enough for a £12.5 million (GW 9) striker.

It is far too early to write off Balotelli’s chances of enjoying a successful career at Liverpool. One thing is certain though; his performances will need to improve significantly if that is to be the case. Will Brendan Rodgers learn to manage the ‘unmanageable one? Or have the first cracks already started to appear?

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