Liverpool could only manage a 0-0 draw with Hull on Saturday as Brendan Rodgers' side looked lacking in ideas. The defence looked a little more competent but only because Hull were quiet in front of goal. With the newspapers choosing to focus on Balotelli once again, I'm not even going to bother going there this week you can read my current thoughts on Mario here. Despite all the controversy from the Real Madrid game, Balotelli did start.
Liverpool's first real chance came early in the second half after a Steven Gerrard corner found its way to Dejan Lovren. The defender's header was blocked off the line and two follow up efforts from the same player also failed to find the back of the net.
Shortly afterwards Balotelli got his first chance of the game after deciding to shoot from an angle. His effort was saved and to be honest it was always going to be from that area.
The Reds began the game with some half chances but it was quickly becoming clear that it was going to take something special to break down Steve Bruce's Hull side and get on the score sheet. An analysis from Ruud Gullit on Match of the Day summed it up for me, our set up against the way Hull played yesterday during the first half just did not work. Sterling particularly was drifting into the centre of the pitch instead of forcing his way down the outside like he usually would.
Hull's best chances in the first half fell to Livermore and Huddlestone. Livermore was set up after Ben Arfa cracked our defence with ease and got behind Manquillo, luckily for the Reds, Mignolet saved Livermore's shot. Huddlestone had a pop from range also in the first half but his effort was deflected.
The second half was much of the same for Liverpool until the hour mark when Brendan Rodgers decided to make a double substitution. I've been calling for us to play a 4-4-2 since we signed Balotelli and there was a sigh of relief from myself when I realised Rickie Lambert was coming on.
Rickie Lambert can still do a job and is a lot more worthy of being on the pitch than most people give him credit for. I was elated to see him enter the field of play alongside Coutinho who would also instantly change things for Liverpool.
Now in a more suitable set up to combat the Hull side the Reds looked 10x better in the latter stages of this half. By no means were we "outstanding" as Brendan chose to describe us, but we were improved and it makes you wonder why we haven't just tried the 4-4-2 before. Just because Sturridge got injured does not mean it makes sense to play Balotelli alone in my opinion.
A Philippe Coutinho corner in the second half almost found the head of Mario Balotelli who was now getting himself into much better positions knowing he had Rickie Lambert to support him. Shortly after the mistimed header Balotelli found himself with another chance. A lovely ball from Rickie Lambert to Emre Can allowed the latter to whip in a ball to Mario. Unfortunately Balotelli then committed a foul in the box however it was good, positive play from the Italian, something we have been drastically missing (because he's been alone!).
Balotelli soon afterwards was in the mix once again, this time a Steven Gerrard free kick found its way to the forward, he took some time to make his final decision but attempted to set up Lovren. Another thing that frustrates me here is that people moan Balotelli is selfish, then the one time he decides to attempt to offer an assist it's "oh no, bloody shoot" he'll never be able to win.
A sad moment later on in the second half came when Jordan Henderson was booked for simulation. He's not usually the type to partake in these sort of activities but by clutching his shoulder in order to try and overshadow the incident it was clear Jordan had accepted he'd perhaps been a bit naughty here.
Yet another piece of attacking play then followed with who else but Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli. Lambert set up Balo beautifully but the Italian went to ground after a push. With shouts for a penalty we were never going to get one for that and he did go down a bit easy but once again, he was there, his movement was good and he was poised. It's an improvement and all down to a simple formation change.
Perhaps the most feasible chance of a goal for the Reds other than Balo's in the dying moments fell to Steven Gerrard. Rickie Lambert played the captain through and as he drove through the box it looked certain he would smash the ball into the back of the net however his effort was blocked.
Philippe Coutinho then saw a chance tipped over the bar by Hull's third choice goalkeeper and despite the increased tempo from Liverpool it was evident we were not going to find the back of the net.
The final chance of the game fell to, yes, Mario Balotelli. Some great skill from Coutinho allowed him to create space and then whip a ball into an awaiting Balotelli. His attempt was poor and despite the save he simply should have done better but for me it was all about the positives regarding Mario.
As a whole, Liverpool were once against disappointing but for me this was down to the tactical set up at the start of the game, I once again just did not agree with Brendan's decisions and for me it was no surprise that Liverpool woke up in the second half when Rickie Lambert and Philippe Coutinho were brought into the game.
Balotelli did not score and obviously, this is his job, there's no real excuse for his lack of return, however you would be an idiot to deny that his performance yesterday, once played in a 4-4-2 was much improved. If this set up had continued for 45minutes of the game, 60 minutes or even more, you have to question whether eventually Liverpool would have found a goal.
There are several problems to solve at Liverpool Football Club currently and as much as people will try to make you think it, Mario Balotelli is not the root cause of them all. It was another pretty average performance from Liverpool yesterday but if Rodgers can remove some of his stubbornness to stick with his original formation and consider starting both Lambert and Balotelli or Borini and Balotelli and play them for a large portion of the game then I think, just maybe, things will improve. As long as we find a brand new defence like...
I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweets I received:
@LFCKirstyLFC very slow buildup and no momentum whatsoever for the first 60 minutes. Only positive was the clean sheet.
— a (@errjunk) October 26, 2014
@LFCKirstyLFC I have a thought y can't we change systems, hull play 3 at the back so y not put 2 up front, every1 knows 2 pack the midfield
— patsy (@STEVENPATT84) October 25, 2014
@_TheLiverBird dull boring and frustrating Brendon's must look at himself nowNext up for Liverpool is Swansea in the league cup.
— Richard Smith (@Richard54850871) October 25, 2014