Depending on who one asked, Liverpool’s Man of the Match honours against Tottenham will have belonged to either Emre Can or Jordon Ibe. Both, though, have been standouts of late, and so instead today we look back at Mario Balotelli’s appearance off the bench, which inevitably centres on his late winning goal following a good bit of interplay down the right flank between Ibe and Adam Lallana.
There was nothing spectacular about the goal itself, but with creative players like Ibe and Lallana—and Philippe Coutinho and Lazar Markovic, too—to feed Liverpool’s strikers, often job is just to get in the right place and let them feed the ball. Too often in past matches, though, Balotelli has floated on the periphery, showing little movement and asking for the ball away from goal rather than getting to the right position and waiting.
Against Spurs, that goal was made by Balotelli finally pushing forward and getting himself into that right position rather than dropping off and watching Liverpool’s creative players dance past him. In his brief time on the pitch he even managed to do it on a few other occasions while largely avoiding the urge to drop too deep too often, adding up to a player who offered far more of an attacking threat than has been the norm for him.
If his final third positioning showed improvement, his workrate when Liverpool didn’t have the ball remained unchanged. And that’s a good thing. Balotelli has received plenty of criticism since arriving at the club. Some of it, issues like movement and shot selection and acceleration, has been legitimate criticism and speaks to the awkward, often static manner in which he fits—or doesn’t particularly—in Liverpool’s attack.
On the other hand, some of it, like accusations of laziness, has been misguided at absolute best. Almost every time he plays, he’ll chase down a few lost causes, pressure the goalkeeper regularly, and drop deep to assist the defence. And every time this seems to be met in some quarters with surprise and suggestions it’s not something he usually does. Then, come the next match, that hard work always seems to end up forgotten.
Perhaps, if he can continue with some of the other positives he showed last night in his next appearance, it won’t be forgotten about be this time around. And if he can’t continue those other positives in his next appearance, at least he’s done his part to ensure Liverpool’s dominance of Tottenham continues.
Video by MrBoywunder