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Why only him? Italian press question Balotelli criticism in light of £70m quartet

The Italian press has suggested that Mario Balotelli is unfairly shouldering the majority of the blame for Liverpool’s underperforming summer recruits.

No matter which way you look at it, Mario Balotelli is a magnet for attention and has been for the better part of his professional career.

Since arriving at Anfield this summer, the Italian has found the going tough and is still yet to find the back of the net through seven Premier League appearances.

He’s courted criticism for a perceived lack of effort on the pitch as he continues to start at Rickie Lambert’s expense with Daniel Sturridge nursing an injury.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s scoreless draw against Hull City only increased pressure on the Italian as he squandered a golden opportunity to score the winner late on.

For all his struggles, however, Balotelli isn’t the only Reds summer signing who’s been slow to get off the mark, though he’s arguably received the most scorn.

Fox Sports Italia has pointed towards Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic – purchased for a combined cost of around £70 million – as also not meeting expectations.

“So maybe it’s time to change the question,” the outlet states. “From ‘why always him’ to ‘why only him’.”

In invoking Balotelli’s famous undershirt line from his Manchester City days, the implication is clear – that he has been handed a disproportionate amount of criticism while others have skated by.

Pointed out is the fact that Balotelli was less expensive than each of the four save Can, while he couldn’t realistically be expected to pick up where Luis Suarez left off.

As a striker, Balotelli of course is bound to have eyes on him. Beyond this, it’s quite true that the Italian was never going to be able to live up to the level of his predecessor.

However, the fact of the matter is that Balotelli has gone 521 minutes without scoring, the purest measure of a forward’s impact. As far as the numbers are concerned, he’s failed.

Lallana, Can, Lovren and Markovic don’t face that measure of success. Their influence determined on less finite terms, it's less empirically evidenced. But in fairness, none of them have truly taken off yet.

What would soften the blow for Balotelli in a dry run of scoring form is a more engaged attitude and a better work rate. Yes, he’s not scoring, but he would certainly be less of a target if he gave reason to believe he’s trying his best to get out of a slump.

This in large part is what Liverpool fans have taken exception with. At the moment it’s a task for Brendan Rodgers to confront – getting Balotelli to work as a cog in the side as best he can.

Liverpool’s summer signings as a whole have admittedly not hit top gear, and the question of why Balotelli has been singled out is absolutely fair one.

But the reality is that Balotelli is a special case and always has been in his career, and that pointed criticism must be channeled into a positive response for things to improve before reaching a crisis point.

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