Should Brendan Rodgers’ Reds opt for a traditional two up top?
Liverpool (5/4 with Coral for a top four finish) relied heavily on the prolific partnership of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge last season, and have struggled to replicate the attacking impetus that resulted in what was a fantastic goal haul of 101 Premier League strikes.
Brendan Rodgers’ Reds have netted just 13 times in nine league games and, after drawing at home against Hull City, currently sit seventh. The swagger, the swashbuckling performances and the air of invincibility have all gone, and if they hope to lift silverware and retain Champions League football then Liverpool must act quickly.
Misfiring forwards and summer signing striking duo Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli have had the finger of blame pointed squarely at them for failing to fill the Suarez-Sturridge void, but more could be done to help the pair acclimatise to life at Anfield.
Whilst neither have yet opened their Premier League accounts, both have shown to be effective players and regular scorers earlier in their careers, hinting that, whilst he is without first pick Sturridge, Rodgers must adapt his system to suit his current goal-shy strikers.
Speaking recently, Lambert, who was in fine form for Southampton last campaign, netting 14 times in all competitions, weighed in on the situation.
Lambert said: “Mario’s like myself, we just need to get a goal. He’s been unlucky with a couple of chances. Obviously you want to hit the ground running and you want to score. The longer it goes, the harder it is.
“If it goes in off your backside it doesn’t matter once it goes in. That’s what a striker needs — just one to go in and they’ll start coming, then the confidence flows.”
Confidence is something Lambert certainly needs to have shown in him. Whilst Rodgers has persisted with big-name Balotelli, even in light of several crucial missed chances and poor team performances, Lambert has barely had a sniff of starting in the Reds’ XI.
Rodgers must have known the type of player he was recruiting in Lambert. The hard-working England international does not possess the skill of a Suarez or the mobility and pace of Sturridge, but deserves more than a seat on the bench.
A little faith may go a long way for 32-year-old Lambert, who is capable of pouncing on half chances, and could bring the Anfield outfit a much-needed goal boost.
Controversial Italian attacker Balotelli has visibly struggled to adapt to life back in the Premier League, but has already spoken of his discomfort playing as a lone striker. With the misfiring pair of Lambert and Balotelli yet to start a Premier League outing together, it could be worth a chance to try the pairing out.
With the pressure of being the main man off, Balotelli may thrive once more in support of Lambert, who could mop up the chances created by Raheem Sterling and co. Until Sturridge returns, Rodgers must make the best of the tools at his disposal.
Whilst this unlikely pairing are certainly a drop-off in quality from last season’s frontmen, perhaps their respective strengths can cover each other’s weaknesses and have Liverpool (5/2 to win a trophy) firing on all cylinders again.