Mario Balotelli's Arrival Can't Mask Liverpool's Defensive Issues

Jack Lusby@jacklusby_Featured ColumnistAugust 25, 2014


A contest that began with such high hopes for the travelling Liverpool fans ended miserably as the Reds left the Etihad Stadium as the losing party in a 3-1 drubbing at the hands of Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City.

Watching on from the stands, new signing Mario Balotelli has been hailed as the box-office acquisition that the Reds needed following the departure of Luis Suarez this summer.

However, the fanfare surrounding the Italian forward failed to mask a disappointing defensive display by the Reds.

A glaring defensive error by Spanish left-back Alberto Moreno gifted Stevan Jovetic with City's opener on 41 minutes.

The Montenegrin made it two after half-time, latching on to a Samir Nasri pull-back to fire past Simon Mignolet.

Later, Argentine striker Sergio Aguero continued an impressive return from injury with a quick-fire strike, a mere 23 seconds after his introduction from the bench.

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Fellow substitute Rickie Lambert helped force a Pablo Zabaleta own goal following great work from Daniel Sturridge on the wing, but this was little more than a consolation effort.

The fortunes of an initially impressive Liverpool were mirrored by that of debutant Moreno, who joined a struggling back line.

Alberto Moreno

Signed from La Liga side Sevilla this summer, Moreno is feted as the solution to Liverpool's long-running problem area on the left-hand side of the defence.

Encouragingly, in the early stages the young defender showed great promise; a combination of pace and attacking nous.

A large majority of the Reds' possession went through the left flank in the opening half-hour.

Unfortunately, the 22-year-old tarnished this bright start with an obtuse defensive error, allowing Jovetic through to make a simple, blasted finish through the sprawling Simon Mignolet.

Potentially at odds with a new league, a heady atmosphere and a foreign locale, Moreno will need to eradicate these mistakes to forge ahead under Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool.

Coming up against the standout City performer in the first half in Zabaleta, perhaps the left-back can be absolved somewhat.

Fluctuating between the composed and the overwrought, Moreno offered a mixed bag throughout; the Spaniard is a provident signing by Rodgers, however, and will grow into the role at Anfield.

Martin Skrtel was one of three Liverpool defenders to suffer injury late on against Manchester City.
Martin Skrtel was one of three Liverpool defenders to suffer injury late on against Manchester City.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool Injuries

To add injury to insult, the Reds suffered a series of potentially deflating afflictions late on in proceedings at the Etihad.

Glen Johnson, so often lambasted by the traditionally loyal Reds, followed up a disappointing end to a promising Reds move by being forced to leave the field with a knock.

Next up, monstrous centre-back Martin Skrtel was left to soldier on following an injury of his own, with Liverpool having utilised their three substitutes in order to spice up a faltering attacking line.

The Slovak was the more impressive of Liverpool's centre-back partnership on the night and would be a big loss for Rodgers in this early season stretch.

Rounding off a late injury trilogy for the Reds was Moreno, who followed Skrtel's lead in remaining on the field, but will worry the Liverpool medical team following a promising debut.

Will Mamadou Sakho be employed to bolster the Liverpool defence in the coming weeks?
Will Mamadou Sakho be employed to bolster the Liverpool defence in the coming weeks?Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Future Defence?

Overall, an onlooking Balotelli will have undoubtedly spotted his place in the Liverpool attacking line—Brazilian No. 10 Philippe Coutinho's substitution an indictment of his influence—but the Italian will surely be dismayed at the way in which his new team-mates were cut apart by the City forwards.

Discrepancies between Skrtel and Lovren, in terms of holding the line, stepping up to challenges and dealing with the exceptional diagonal runs of Aguero and Jovetic's poacher's nous, may leave an opening for Frenchman Mamadou Sakho in the coming weeks.

Return of the Manq? New boy Javier Manquillo impressed on his Reds debut.
Return of the Manq? New boy Javier Manquillo impressed on his Reds debut.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Elsewhere, another hapless performance by Englishman Glen Johnson, punctuated by injury, could see Javier Manquillo—Moreno's compatriot—ushered to the fore against Spurs on Sunday.

Finally, this particular occasion proved too early for Moreno's introduction; seemingly overawed by the demands of the contest.

Rodgers has spent significantly to bolster his defence, but Balotelli will have noticed there is still some serious fine-tuning due.

Can Brendan Rodgers take any positives from this defensive display? Let us know in the comments below.