It would be easy to overreact to a humbling by one of the best three teams on Earth. Even if Liverpool were firing on all cylinders, they would struggle to get something out of a game with Real Madrid. Yes, I'm aware that Liverpool took points off Man City at home last year, and Man City are one of the best teams in the world as well. I still don't think they're in Madrid's or Barca's or Munich's class. And hey, at least Liverpool didn't give up seven at home, right?
So what's about to follow isn't about today's loss. It's about the whole recent stretch, with today being the culmination. As you've seen in this space before, I haven't been enamored with our manager's choices this season, at least some of them. Today was perhaps the biggest piece of slice of shirking responsibility that Brendan Rodgers has tried.
Today's subbing of Mario Balotelli at halftime was the biggest view of bus-tossing that he's tried since taking over as manager. Sure, we could blame it on a halftime shirt-swapping that Balotlelli pulled and doesn't exactly looked good, but that's too easy of an out. The whole maneuver is too much of an easy out.
Has Balotelli been good? No, he hasn't, and I'm not trying to argue that he has been. But the problems with Balotelli have been obvious, and he hasn't been put in a position to succeed at all. Everyone who has seen the Italian play over the past few years knows that he's not really a lone-striker type. He needs a partner, or at least runners beyond him, He hasn't gotten that. He got one game with Sturridge as a strike-partner, and that didn't look half-bad. He got another half-plus with Borini, which didn't look all that good, but that's it. Is that enough?
Fabio Borini isn't a miracle worker. I can't even tell you he's not complete pants. Maybe he is. But what he is is mobile. He's not dumb. He makes all the right runs. He opens up space for others. Most importantly, he'll get beyond Balotelli. With Sturridge hurt, it's about the only option. He's here, what's the point of completely ignoring him now?
But that's not the real problem. It seems as if Balotelli has been viewed as a high-risk signing, and for the team he probably is. But for the manager? How can he lose? If he works out than Rodgers in the miracle worker who finally got through. If he doesn't, then it's simply Balotelli can't be reached by anyone and Rodgers can throw his hands up, citing the player's potential and Liverpool's desperation for a striker.
So he can haul him off today, and no one blames him. But it wasn't Mario's fault today. Why has a defense that's been so bad for so long with Martin Skrtel in it continue to have Martin Skrtel in it? How else do you explain that Sahko and Lovren show up and are suddenly helpless? I get today because Kolo Toure was the only option other, but why is that the case with simply one injury to Sahko? It was infuriating last season to watch Rodgers not play Agger and Sahko together because they were simply both left-footed, but would play Toure and Skrtel together.
Rodgers has thrown money at the problem, and then blamed the players. None of it works. Rodgers has refused to install a midfield destroyer once Lucas's knees went. He tried to shoehorn Gerrard there, but that doesn't work against genuine attacks. Is it Can? We know it can't be Joe Allen consistently.
The scapegoating of Balotelli today screamed of a manager who was trying to duck blame. I think Rodgers is still the man to fix these problems. But I don't think they're getting fixed until he admits he's at fault for some of them.