17 Jan 2015

Owen insists: Liverpool should replace Raheem Sterling with 'exceptional' €20m striker up-front. Agree?

Liverpool attacker Raheem Sterling returns to the starting line-up for Saturday's Premier League clash with Aston Villa, and once again, he'll almost certainly play up front at the expense of Mario Balotelli. On some levels, Sterling's positional change is paying dividends for Liverpool, but ex-Red Michael Owen is not convinced, and insists that Brendan Rodgers is making a mistake by continually ignoring Balotelli.

When asked today about Balotelli's future at Anfield, Owen urged Rodgers to replace Sterling with Balotelli up front. He noted:

"If I were picking the team, I would start Mario Balotelli upfront. I think he is a better option than Rickie Lambert and I prefer Raheem Sterling playing in behind rather than as the back-to-goal number nine".

Clearly, Owen didn't get the memo. Everyone and his dog can see that the 'Balotelli as lone-striker' experiment was an abject failure, and the man himself has publicly confirmed that he doesn't like to play that role. In October, Balotelli told reporters:

"I have never been a real, out-and-out striker. I have always been someone who goes around the pitch. If it was my choice, I would always go with two strikers. It's the way I like to play, but Brendan asked me to play as the first striker".

Like every player, Balotelli - recently hailed by Diego Maradona as an 'exceptional' player - has to take responsibility for his own performances, but a huge part Rodgers' job is utilising the club's players in a way that maximises their talent and potential. For the first few months of the season, he failed to do that, and the club's results suffered as a result.

Thankfully, Rodgers has adapted to the situation, and instituted a 343 formation, which seems to get the best out of the players at his disposal. A key part of that formation is Raheem Sterling playing as a lone-striker, and he's already far more effective at it than Balotelli, both individually, and on a team-level.

As such, replacing Sterling with Balotelli at the tip of the 343 would be an incredibly retrograde step, and I sincerely doubt Rodgers is foolish enough to make the same mistake twice. Instead, Rodgers should (IMO) try Balotelli in the number 10 position, just behind Sterling.

If it works out, then it gives the club numerous attacking options to consider, and great competition for places between now and the end of the season.

If it fails, then it'll just underline the fact that Balotelli needs to leave.

Author:



70 comments:

  1. Perhaps a fluid 3 of Balo, Sterling, and Coutinho would work? Kinda like a #9 with 2 SS's, except the roles are constantly changing. Worth a punt, but this probably isn't the time to be experimenting. Ideally, we'd just continue as we have been, with Sterling up top and 2 runners off of him (Marko and Cou).

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  2. Its the best suggestion I have seen and is 100% correct. They Buy Ballotelli he gets crap service and then blamed for not scoring.


    He has looked good and has got into plenty of good positions to score. he needs game time. Owen clearly under stands football unlike a lot of people.


    The 3-4-3 is a ticking time bomb and every game teams have no problems getting in behind them. Its why they cant really keep a clean sheet. Balotelli is hands down a better option than Borini , sterling or lambert up front.

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  3. What ever happened to the 4-4-2 that was so entertaining last year?

    Play Balo and Sterling as a partnership - It's all about that BAS.

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  4. So far Ballotelli has not started a game in this new formation and whenever he has come on he has made some kind of impact. Rodgers should be thanking Ballotelli because he took so much flack for Liverpool's poor form when time has shown it was in fact Rodgers who was to blame by sticking with a formation best suited to a player who is no longer at the club. It would be very foolish to write off Ballotelli, now the pressure is off him he has a couple of games to hopefully impress before Sturridge comes back into the team. People have said that because he had previous premiere league experience with city he should of hit the ground running but sometimes it doesn't work out like that but that doesn't mean that he will have a poor second half of the season. Peter Beardsley's first half of his debut season only produced 3 goals but by the end of the season he had scored another 15.

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  5. I think there are alot of people who bought into all the Balotelli TV hype that were sucked in hook, line and sinker and don't want to admit they were conned. All the flashy clips and winks at the camera and the odd screamer into the net and he's a football god...piffle.

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  6. GRUG= I agree, Only I would replace sterling with Ibe as I think that sterling's EGO is far to big, He should be taught that he is not the big star that everybody seems to think.

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  7. Give Balotelli the service that he requires, Ball's put in behind the defense that he can get onto.

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  8. I think the same thing about sterling, To much hype about the kid.

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  9. Why don't they play 3-5-2

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  10. Mr. Point Of View7:21 am, January 17, 2015

    Totally agree 31 is not the right man play that position ! But playing 45 or not is another case ! I always insist 45 need a partner and that perfect suit will be 45 ! Just like heskey and owen

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  11. Mr. Point Of View7:25 am, January 17, 2015

    (B)orini ??? hahahahaaa

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  12. Sterling has been lfc's player of the season so far! The young European player of the year award was acknowledgment of his progress, considering the last 18 months.

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  13. I dont think now is the time to start experimenting with our lineup but I do think its time Balotelli start pulling his weight. À talented player can adapt to any role but what he's saying is that his strenght is to do as hè pleases wandering around the pitch and let others mop up after him.

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  14. I very much agree with the suggestion of playing Mario in the 10-type role. Ultimately Liverpool's best side has Sturridge and an in-form Balotelli playing up front and in that instance Sturridge will always get the more central and higher role in the team. Balotelli will sit a little deeper and can go to the left or the right. He'll play more of the Suarez type of role and that actually plays to his strengths quite a bit more. That's not strictly a 10 role, Rodgers called it the false 9, but they are close enough and Mario will overall be happier in a deeper lying role, supporting the other striker who will make the runs in behind. That will work if the other striker is Sterling or Sturridge so if he plays against Villa that can be the option. They can even interchange the roles during the match and potentially cause real confusion for the defenders if it works well.


    Philosophically speaking I think the manager's job is to maximise team performance, not just the performances of individuals. Those two concepts are not the same. Sometimes that teamwork comes at the cost of an individual and of course it has to be that way. You simply can't have 11 players all doing what they are the very best at. We saw last year that Suarez was sacrificed to some degree in order to allow Sturridge to play as a centre forward. When you're willing to push the best striker in the world into a wider, deeper role for the sake of the team tactics it follows that everyone else in the team should be equally adaptable. No one can argue that from an attacking sense Liverpool were not massively successful last year so when something works that well you're going to be inclined to stick with it.


    Balotelli will have to accept that same kind of role alteration and I think if that means playing him up front alone then so be it. If that's the best way for him to contribute to the team and everyone else gets some benefit from it then that's what he has to do. Very often your contribution to the team is how others around you will play, how you make space for them or present them with a target for the pass. Part of the problem as I see it is that Balotelli doesn't fully understand that, he doesn't get it, so when he's playing up front by himself he forgets too easily that even if he makes a run and he doesn't get the ball it's OK, he presented his team mates with a target and drew a defender with him. The whole team philosophy doesn't click with his natural instincts so when he's not personally rewarded for what he does he thinks it's not working. That upsets his rhythm and his confidence and he ends up frustrated, making poor decisions and losing sight of all the tactics he's been drilled on by his manager. I think everyone would agree that we see flashes of quality from Mario, even when he's playing in that lone striker role, but it's just not consistent across 90 minutes. I honestly believe that's still down to his mental approach to the game and it's something that can be shifted and improved.

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  15. Don't bother, he/she clearly hasn't taken his medication. No one could seriously maintain this kind of prolonged campaign against Sterling and actually believe it.

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  16. Talking about people on medication where is Shamsy? his 3 day ban is up after what i've been reading lately hes become tolerable.

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  17. Balotelli still has every chance to make it but the manager should not ask him to lead the attack when he clearly cannot do so and the $player also needs to get stuck in. Many times you can see from his body language that he is just there to show his face.


    We made a mistake signing this player and would have much preferred if we had gone ahead with Remy who would have cost less, suited to the way we play and Chelsea did not have any issues with his medical. Can see Balotelli back in Italy by the start of next season.

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  18. If this is what we are reduced to we may as well have kept Carroll and built a team around him.

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  19. Balotelli is not a kid so has no excuses

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  20. I wonder how long the guest who up voted your comments has been a Liverpool supporter...........I bet it's quite a long time.........

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  21. I upvoted it out of respect for my seniors.

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  22. YAY you spelled his name right. Congratulations.

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  23. He doesn't make.the runs. Seriously, start watching the games.

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  24. How can you have been watching football for over half a century and still know nothing about it?

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  25. Ten players on the pitch move according to some scheme, some formation- they are playing football. Balotelli is in an entirely different sport. But if other players on the pitch can understand and deal with it he has so much football abilities that the team will benefit from. Mario is never a player for the entire match, either a power sub or a starter untill he delivers and team changes tactics with him going out to be replaced with someone who will perform his role in that new tactic.

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  26. His on TIA, don't jinks it...

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  27. I don't know where to start. Oh I know, when exactly has Mario looked good? He's looked decent in a game or two but I've yet to see him look really good. He's got into plenty good positions to score you're right but he never actually does score. He's tactically clueless as well and all the evidence would suggest that he's not a better option than Sterling up front.
    Also you say in our 3-4-3 teams have no problem getting in behind us and that's why we can't keep a clean sheet. Well that's not true either, the reason we can't keep a clean sheet is because we can't defend a ball into the box. I can't think of too many times teams have got in behind us since we switched to that system and certainly not leading to goals.
    My final point is, if you rate Michael Owen's opinions, you obviously don't watch BT sport

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  28. Mario warms the bench until he's prepared to run himself into the ground.

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  29. Liverpool 3-2 tonight go lads.

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  30. I don't see what he brings to the side in terms of unique, maverick footballing ability. He's not Zlatan.

    He's brawny and fairly quick. Those ought to be his main characteristics. If he used his strength competitively to dominate opponents, he'd be a force. But he doesn't know how, and he doesn't appear to want to learn. We might as well have iago Aspas up there for all Mario's physique brings to the side.

    His chest control is non-existent. His trapping of the ball with his back to goal is leggy and uncoordinated. He has some nice turns which he performs fairly explosively, but it's nothing you wouldn't see in amateur football, and I've never seen him combine a turn with a killer pass or goal. He sometimes executes flair skills but never instinctively, and I've never seen him use a skill because it was the right or only option, only to showboat. He can collect the ball and travel with it quite efficiently but typically dwells in possession for too long.

    He can't pass properly. He has no appreciation of timing, weight, and poor vision. He is quite good at offloading possession in tight areas and moving on goal to receive aa return pass. This is such a fundamental skill for a footballer at any level that I feel embarrassed even having to mention it as I search for pluses.

    In terms of character, Balotelli's demeanour is sullen, petulant, and childish. His demeanour in training is clownish, distracting, and complacent. He can't be trusted with responsibility. He has shown no club loyalty, and has displayed no coherent vision or plan for his own development. He is an attention-seeker on social media, who despite his elevate platform uses it for nothing but to add meaningless noise to the culture around him.

    Ultimately strikers have to finish. Mario Balotelli is an atrocious finisher. He uses none of the harder finishing (as opposed to shooting) techniques; he shows no special understanding of the flight of the ball; he can't head or volley; his shooting is powerful but undeveloped for a player of his age. He doesn't appear to have worked on his game at all since he was a teenager.

    Overall I'd rate him at present one of the worst strikers I've ever actually seen playing for Liverpool in successive league games.

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  31. Well its dark outside here and theres no point saying its day to appease you people in the northern hemisphere.

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  32. It is darker where I am, trust me. even though it is 2 pm...

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  33. He is a great penalty taker but we are yet to see it.

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  34. but apart from that

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  35. Just realized i got me times wrong.

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  36. you live in Sweden orme by any chance

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  37. ballotelli wouldnt run behind a wall for a piss mate

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  38. its a numbers game mate

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  39. To get the best out of this Liverpool team, you need to play a pressing game high up the pitch move the ball quickly with lots of one-twos. Ballotelli has not got this in his game, Liverpool should just try and offload him as quick as possible. We still have a chance of Champions League football next season lets not blow are chances by playing this waste of space

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  40. Nope. Kotor, city in Montenegro. Montenegro as Jovetic....

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  41. Feck, he's back. Well done Greg,..

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  42. Mignolet, Can, Skrtel, Sakho, Markovic, Moreno, Lucas, Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho, Borini

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  43. Borini on the transfer window. Hope we don't lose points because of that..

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  44. Yea could get himself sent off very easily

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  45. Damn, no Balotelli on the bench?!? He will go for 3 mill at the end. Hope we score (2) early and Ibe gets a few minutes..

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  46. I would like him to score, get a yellow and get subbed after a foul and the last warning from the ref. Ibe in.

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  47. He is trying really hard and if he gets a goal, it could spark an upturn in form. I am not givng up on him yet.

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  48. Your alive Shamsy and making sense as usual.

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  49. Disagree a bit, but would feel embaressed to reply to this essay...

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  50. You are usually so articulate.

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  51. Oh! Sorry mate. Always interested to read your opinons, didn't mean to smother you, if that's the right word.

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  52. is it my english? My comment was removed?!? I was saying I am not good enough to such a good and well thought essay you wrote.

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  53. And I really enjoyed your post, always do. Yours and Adam's..

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  54. Kotor's one of the most beautiful places in the world! Wow.

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  55. is it dark there?!

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  56. My city is surrounded by tall hills and it is raining. Gloomy, but poetic...

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  57. Yes, in summer of 2009. Hope to come again with my family some day. I love the Balkans. Crazy people and beautiful places :)

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  58. untravelled paths. Go to their site, I work for them now, they have great and cheap arrangements, and I can get you a discount too...
    Crazy and beautiful both being understatements..

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  59. I hope you are all watching the little ponce sterling today

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  60. Perhaps last years derby holds a clue to Owens ideas? At about ,32/3 mins into the game he said. "Evertons senior players need to step it up. WE can't afford to lose another goal!!!" Check it out! Owen is a blue nose.

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  61. It comes down to the style of Play Brendan wants the team to produce. I think that many thought Balotelli was adaptable and could play in most teams, but clearly he cannot. Rogers seems to have had enough and Balotelli will not be on the team sheet until Sturridge is back as that the only time he's looked dangerous. Liverpools style does not suit Mario. For a lad of his athletism he should be doing better. His movement is not great. Maybe he needs more time to get in tune? I don't think so, he's played in the premier league before and should know exactly what it's about. I hope he can turn it around soon. Or he will be sold.

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  62. @grug: this is why ur not a manager or a football pundit. Players use that ego to propel themselves. It's a confidence thing. Some players can still be quite gracious but some "ibrahimovic" are so egotistical it's sickening. But then again, how good is he. Freaking amazing! Managers balance this according to their own methods. Sitting him on the bench does nothing but harm to the dressing room.

    Cut the lad some slack. He's a shining light for us at the moment and the last thing we need is for him to dip in confidence.

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  63. This could be the 1st I have ever agreed with the little shite

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  64. I think this is my favourite post of yours Robo. Brilliant analysis, couldn't agree more

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