Liverpool legend and ESPN pundit Steve Nicol believes Mario Balotelli’s efforts to shed his roguish image at Anfield are having an adverse effect on his game.
Balotelli, 24, has scored just one goal in nine games since a £16 million summer move from AC Milan, failing to impress when leading the line in Daniel Sturridge’s absence, with calls for him to be dropped from the side increasing after each outing.
He had netted times 30 times in 54 appearances during his 18 months with i Rossoneri, prior to be shipped out for a cut-price fee, and Nicol is adamant that his attempts to keep out of trouble on the pitch during his start to life with the Reds have impacted his drive.
‘I think half of it is confidence,’ he told ESPN FC. ‘The other half for me is, tough, that this guy is trying to behave himself so much that it’s taken away all his “mojo”.
‘His strength seems to have gone, and his decision-making is horrible. Of the 30 shots he’s had, I guarantee only about five were legitimate opportunities to have a shot.
‘He’s just making bad decisions. Players are running off him but he’s not looking for them. One way or another, that’s got to stop.'
|2014-15 Premier League||Goals||Total Shot||Shot Acc||Big Chance Missed||Assists||Big Chance Created||Total Pass / apps||Pass Acc||Apps||Mins|
Manager Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, has defended the polarising front man from the criticism he’s received from the fans and media alike, but his starting spot going into this week’s Champions League Group B clash against Real Madrid at Anfield remains in doubt.
‘The criticism of him has been unfair, yes,’ the Northern Irishman said.
‘Mario's come into here, everyone knows him and they've seen him over his career, he's a great boy, and I've really enjoyed working with him.
‘He wants to improve and be better, but it's not going to happen overnight.’