Liverpool’s uninspired front line against Sunderland on Saturday proved why Fabio Borini must come in for a start against FC Basel, writes Jack Lusby.
Saturday’s stalemate at home to Sunderland was the perfect opportunity to gift wayward forward Fabio Borini a rare start for Liverpool, and Brendan Rodgers arguably paid the price for his absence as he was forced to watch a lifeless attacking display by his chosen side.
With Borini impressing on loan at the Stadium of Light last season, and having rejected a move to Sunderland after expressing a determination to prove himself at Liverpool—what better chance?
Instead Rodgers opted to field Rickie Lambert once more as his only established strike option, on the field or on the bench, and as a result his side suffered.
Lambert has been in great form for the Reds recently, scoring two goals in his recent five starts for the club following injury to Mario Balotelli.
However, the striker is 32 years old and should not be playing every game.
Rodgers must now take his cue from this performance and start Borini against FC Basel in Tuesday night’s Champions League clash.
Liverpool vs. Sunderland
After the game on Saturday, Rodgers succinctly summarised Liverpool fan’s frustrations after another lowly performance:
We’re a different team to last year, with different players at the top end of the field. Guys like Rickie Lambert are giving their all and working very, very hard. The supporters are used to seeing goals and that creativity, but it’s a different team with different players.
What hallmarked this display was Liverpool’s inability to defend from the front, as well as create from these positions; Sunderland’s defence were under little pressure throughout.
Of these, Sterling alone contributed two tackles, one interception and four key passes—the forward was the only player capable of consistently pressing Sunderland.
Steven Gerrard, introduced on 66 minutes in place of Lallana, aided the defensive cause by contributing two tackles, but failed to provide the spark to support a flailing Lambert as Liverpool’s lone striker.
Lambert made just one attempt on goal in another draining 90-minute display.
At the final whistle, 0-0 was a fair result, given both side’s inability to create, but it was Liverpool’s uninspired performance that was most stark.
One player conspicuous in his absence at Anfield on Saturday was Borini, who once again didn’t even make it into Rodgers’ 18-man match-day squad.
Liverpool’s substitutes’ bench didn’t feature a recognised striker, again.
Pressed after the game as to why Borini was continually failing to make it into Rodgers’ squad, the manager claimed Saturday’s omission was “a decision I make as a manager.”
After seeing Lambert struggle with fatigue, this would surely be considered a mistake by Rodgers.
Meanwhile, Sunderland manager Gus Poyet offered that he “would love to” have Borini in his squad, with the Uruguayan having an offer accepted for the striker in the summer, with Borini deciding to stay at Liverpool.
Unfortunately, it is becoming clear that Borini is unwanted on Merseyside, and Rodgers is making this clear by consistently cutting him out of his team selections—we’ve seen this before with the likes of Pepe Reina.
But should this be to the detriment of performances? Surely Liverpool needed a back-up striker on the bench?
Rodgers' treatment of Borini has been embarrassing. Especially since Liverpool have one fit senior striker.
— ReviewFootball (@ReviewFootball) December 6, 2014
However, if this truly was a managerial decision, based on the strengths and weaknesses of Sunderland, Borini must come back into contention following such disappointment.
Last time out, in Basel’s opulent St. Jakob-Park, Liverpool’s performance somewhat mirrored that of the recent draw with Sunderland—expect, in this case, the Swiss side had more quality and Rodgers saw his side limp to defeat.
Marco Streller proved the decisive feature in that game, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win.
This time out, the occasion demands a victory—if Liverpool win against Basel, they qualify for the first knockout round of the Champions League.
Realistically, this is a necessary result for Rodgers to regain a foothold as Liverpool manager.
With league results consistently disappointing, failure to qualify in the Champions League would be a hammer blow. Rodgers must counter the previous loss in Switzerland by conjuring a passionate performance.
Borini, clearly fit and raring to go, can be key to this.
Ahead of the game, Rodgers told reporters that “we want to press the game,” and Borini showed this ability when deployed as a lone striker against Real Madrid.
The 23-year-old wasn’t hugely effective at the Bernabeu, but the calibre of the opposition saw Liverpool’s much-changed side penned back considerably, and support for Borini was scant.
By supporting Borini with fellow young dynamos Sterling and Coutinho, for example, could see this pressing game come to life.
With Borini determined to prove his value to Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side, the striker must be given the chance to do so with a start against FC Basel on Tuesday night—in doing so, the manager could give his side the spark it sorely requires.
Should Fabio Borini start for Liverpool against FC Basel on Tuesday night? Let us know in the comments below.