Just a glimmer of Balotelli’s potential

Thomas Woods looks at the weekend's talking points in the English Premier League.
Mario Balotelli of Liverpool. Getty Images
Mario Balotelli of Liverpool. Getty Images

TIME FOR SUPER MARIO

If Liverpool are looking for positives from the 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester United, one could be the performance of Mario Balotelli in the second half.

It is not an obvious positive – the Italian missed a string of chances and was booked, quite predictably, after getting frustrated.

But the fact he was in position to miss chances at all is a fair improvement on some of his tepid displays this season, where he has trudged about the park rarely touching the ball.

The Italian troubled United’s defence, came deep to collect the ball on several occasions and showed his power holding up play.

Liverpool’s problem this season has been scoring goals. Balotelli has been part of the issue, but he shouldn’t be. If Balotelli is the fragile human being some people say he is and one missed chance gets him down, then Brendan Rodgers should earn his keep and build the Italian’s confidence.

More likely is that Balotelli has simply been out of form and fitness and needed time to grow into his role at Anfield.

Either way, with Arsenal at home this week followed by three winnable fixtures, now is the time Liverpool need their expensive striker to produce.

He could have had a hat-trick at Old Trafford, and Arsenal’s defence is little better than United’s. If he builds on Sunday’s 45-minute showing, Balotelli could kick-start Liverpool’s season.

SANCHEZ ON FIRE

Arsene Wenger talked about Alexis Sanchez, the Chilean winger, being on the verge of breakdown after playing too many games.

Strange, then, that the Arsenal manager would wait until three minutes from time, with his side 3-1 up and cruising, to take off Sanchez. But the former Barcelona man is in such form that it is impossible for Wenger to drop him at the moment. He destroyed Newcastle with his pace and close control, and his impact on Arsenal is growing by the game.

Sanchez has nine goals in the league this season, which puts him third behind Sergio Aguero (14) and Diego Costa (12).

He also has five assists – Cesc Fabregas (11) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (eight) lead the way. Considering he switched from Spain in the summer and has played just 15 games in England’s faster-paced league, Sanchez’s form is remarkable.

LEICESTER ARE DOOMED

Leicester’s Christmas could be pretty unhappy. They are already five points off safety, have not won in 11 games and have lost nine of those.

Now the schedule gives them West Ham away, Spurs at home, Hull away and Liverpool away in the space of 11 days.

If they do not get some points from those games, the outlook is dire: January 31 to March 4 sees them play Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City in five games.

twoods@thenational.ae

Published: December 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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