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On Defensive Mistakes and Attacking Reputations

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Liverpool's defence will shoulder most of the blame for last night's loss, but a misfiring attack contributed, underlining the potential importance of new signing Mario Balotelli.

Clive Brunskill

The main talking points following last night's 3-1 defeat to Manchester City were always going to be the defensive lapses that led to City's goals. And for good reason, too, as it was far from a pretty picture at the back. Not to mention it was the man Brendan Rodgers brought in to fix his at times frail defence of last season who played a key role in all three.

New signing Alberto Moreno along with Dejan Lovren and Steven Gerrard were all culpable to varying degrees on City's first. The young Spaniard was caught out by the speed with which Steven Jovetic closed him down while Lovren was well out of position and Gerrard failed to track his runner. Any one of them doing the right thing would have prevented the goal.

Meanwhile, the second and third goals were largely on Lovren. He was the only defender who stepped up on the second, creating the space City attacked into, and on the third he allowed Sergio Aguero to turn him too easily. He and the rest of the defence, though, weren't the only problem with Liverpool last night, as a misfiring attack did very little to help them.

With Mario Balotelli watching on from the stands, the potential importance of the club's latest signing on whether or not this ends up a successful season for Liverpool was underlined. There may be question marks surrounding the player, but with Rodgers continuing with a system that measures its holding midfielder by his attacking qualities, goals will be key.

"It's an area we needed to strengthen in," said the manager following last night's heavy defeat to a more clinical City side. "It's a calculated risk for us. We hope that we can bring him in and improve him as a player, but there's no doubting his football talent. He's someone that comes in with a reputation but we hope we can curb that behaviour. He knows he's part of a team."

With the Loic Remy deal collapsing due to a failed medical and inquiries into the likes of Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao going nowhere, a striker—any striker, even—was certainly needed. Last night only underlined that fact, and as against Southampton last week, Liverpool looked markedly better late on in the match when Rodgers brought on a second striker.

That Liverpool had looked far more dangerous in attack in their opener when Daniel Sturridge was given a partner up top had led some to expect two strikers and the diamond formation against City. Instead it was the 4-3-3 and Liverpool's attack looking less than stellar with Sturridge left isolated and Philippe Coutinho struggling for influence against Kompany and Zabaleta.

Rodgers may have shifted to the diamond last season as a way of getting both Sturridge and Luis Suarez into the starting eleven, but early signs are it remains Liverpool's most effective formation. Change from it and problems—Sturridge's isolation, Coutinho's struggles, Gerrard's continuing issues with the defensive side of the game—begin to crop up or become more obvious.

Enter Mario Balotelli, with all his flaws and promise and, perhaps, a chance to get the attack back up to full speed again after a sluggish start. He may not have been the club's first choice, but his talent is undeniable. On the evidence of the first two matches, whether he can make good on that talent at Anfield may also be what determines if Liverpool's season is a success.

"He knows his flaws and he is looking for someone to help him with them," added Rodgers. "Of course it was a risk. We are not going to say that it isn't. But he is a big talent."