Mario Balotelli – The big, strong, athletic striker hit the scoresheet in Champions League action midweek and will be looking to create havoc at the Boleyn Ground today.
So what do West Ham do to make sure that doesn’t happen? Maybe man-marking is the answer.
Balotelli, as everyone knows, has a short fuse and is prone to silly fouls and lashing out at others, sometimes his own team and coaches, in frustration. Put a first-rate defender on him man-to-man once the ball is crossed over the halfway line and he might lose it in short order.
It might do to have, say, James Tomkins or Winston Reid up Balotelli’s nose from the first whistle until injury time – if Balotelli is still on the field by then. Sure, it would mean playing a back three of sorts, though the Netherlands and Man United with varying degrees of success have shown it can be done.
And with a defensive midfielder laying back, perhaps playing Balotelli man-on-man would not leave the other defenders stretched. Yes, it means less support when Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutino are on the ball, but that’s where midfielders such as Mark Noble and Cheikou Kouyate have to help out Aaron Cresswell and Guy Demel or whoever is back there with Tomkins and Reid.
Zonal marking on Balotelli may be preferred and there may be other schemes Big Sam is thinking up to deal with the ‘Liverpool’s Special One,’ but I think man marking may work best.
What do you think?