Premier League: Mixed Bag for Liverpool in Merseyside

Mario Balotelli

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Luis Suarez never did it alone, even at his Premier League best for Liverpool. The prolific Suarez had Daniel Sturridge alongside, whose own scoring prowess took some attention away. The point here of course is that even the best strikers in the world — and yes, Suarez is, on any day in any country in any competition, a top-five scorer in the world — need some help.

On the other hand, here are a few names, all playing for the same team: Stevan Jovetic, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro NegredoManchester City have plenty of bodies to spread goals around. Actually there aren’t enough balls to go around. That powder blue front line is golden-rich.

As a whole, City are much farther along as a group than Liverpool, and the champions showcased their top form in Monday’s 3-1 whipping of the Reds at the Etihad.

It wasn’t as complete a victory for the home team as their opening-weekend win at Newcastle, but it was never going to be. Liverpool are a tough side, the most relentless. They’re breathtaking, really, when they don’t have the ball. They’re stunning when they do. Brendan Rodgers’ system — a beautiful brand, mixing the hounding defensive nature of the famous Pep Guardiola-era Barcelona mids with the attacking speed of Real Madrid – is a fit for this group of players, and it makes Raheem Sterling a proper star.

And for the first 40 minutes, Liverpool were the better team. New signing Alberto Moreno was playing the fullback role much better than any left back has played it in red for some time. Moreno was basically playing a better version of Glen Johnson‘s game on the right. Sterling was his freakish self, being the best pest in the Premier League, as he’ll do. Sturridge was constantly shadowed and collapsed upon, but Liverpool were finding ways through a great defensive City side.

 

They’re a side without a real weakness, and they’re a year more experienced. They look cohesive, like the definition of mid-season form. Liverpool still look a mess at the back. Dejan Lovren got exposed on two of City’s three tallies, including getting gassed by Aguero just 23 seconds after the City sub came on.

It’s a bit tone-deaf to take a game between two giant clubs as anything more than a regular game, especially when the table doesn’t add any extra pressure. It’s early. This hasn’t shown anything more than City’s class and Liverpool’s shaky promise. But on a day where Rodgers’ squad was largely outclassed, it got a fairly huge win.

The club announced the signing of Italian striker Mario Balotelli just a few hours before Monday’s match in Manchester. They paid just £16 million to AC Milan in transfer fees, and Balotelli’s wages are significantly lower than Rodamel Falcao‘s. Falcao, the Monaco striker, was another Liverpool target.

To put Rodgers’ bit of business in perspective, Manchester United spent nearly four Mario Balotellis to get one Angel Di Maria – almost £60 million in transfer fees. That’s a good deal, a great shake. Rodgers will be giggling himself to sleep over that one.

Balotelli’s only 24 and comes with some baggage, but not any more than the departed Suarez left with. He’ll bring some help for Sturridge, they’ll both need. He’ll bring some excitement, and he’ll bring some flare, and he’ll bring a personality that Rodgers’ acknowledged Monday that he’ll need to work on.

Anfield might be the perfect spot for the Italian, though. It’s as supportive a Premier League atmosphere as there is. There will certainly be a good amount of patience levied on the new signing, and on this team as it learns to play together.

Manchester City are fine. They’re more than fine. Those Chelsea/City fixtures are bound to be real rockers. Liverpool are less fine than Manchester City, which is why Monday’s match was more a loss for Liverpool than a win for City. It was an expected result. But even after getting whipped by the champions, Monday wound up being a mixed bag for the Merseyside club.

Grant Burkhardt is a regional Emmy-award winning television producer and Ohio University graduate who’s fallen head over boots for world football. You can chat soccer with him on social media, because he loves it, on Twitter and Google+.

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