Tactics: Arsenal legend explains how England can handle Balotelli

Balotelli 2

Italy goal threat Mario Balotelli, wanted by Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, can be tempered in the World Cup.

The key to handling AC Milan and Italy striker Mario Balotelli is to "show him who is boss early on", according to Arsenal defensive legend Martin Keown, capped 43 times by the England national team over ten years from 1992-2002.

At club-level, Balotelli returned 14 goals and six assists from 30 appearances for AC Milan last term. Internationally, he has netted 12 from 30 for the Azzurri, however, when he is in hot form, he can be seemingly unstoppable, as his 12 goals from 13 outings in Serie A during the latter part of the 2012-13 season underlines.

Keown warned that "our defenders cannot switch off for a moment" as he always carries that threat.

  ClubTackle /AppsIntercept /AppClear /AppBlock /AppDuel Won /AppAerial Won /AppAppsMins
Jagielka Everton 1.69 1.88 8.88 0.38 5.19 2.77 26 2,316
Cahill Chelsea 1.13 0.97 6.83 0.70 5.37 3.53 30 2,623

The centre back partnership likely to start against Italy when England kick-off their World Cup campaign in Manaus on Saturday, June 14 could feature Everton stopper Phil Jagielka and Chelsea star Gary Cahill, who has come of age in recent years.

"Our defenders can handle him but there is a certain way to play against Balotelli - you really have to show him who's boss early on," Keown said, speaking on behalf of the official England supporter - William Hill. 

"You can't switch off for a moment because he doesn't have to do anything and he's still a threat - it doesn't bother him. There's a lot of disruption going on in his life but when he's on the pitch, he's in the zone. If Italy want to win the game, they have to play Balotelli and it's up to our central defenders to cope with him.

"If he's focused and he's happy in his football and his life, he is a special talent and Italy will be relying on him," Keown concluded.

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch