Christian Benteke played a huge role as Aston Villa tore apart Liverpool in their Wembley FA Cup semi-final, but in the final, he was almost invisible as Arsenal thrashed the Villans and stormed off to with a 4-0 victory. After losing the semi-final against Aston Villa, Brendan Rodgers turned his attention to Benteke – as he usually does with any player that plays well against his own team.
However, was Benteke’s performance against Arsenal good enough?
Arsenal’s dominance over the field was strong from the beginning, Villa’s flawed set up to contain the Gunners did not work and an extremely poor performance from N’Zogbia lead to Benteke being somewhat isolated up front. The long-ball game that sees him flourish was impossible as Villa couldn’t get the players forward to provide Benteke with the support he needed.
As a result, the striker had no choice, but to drop deep to help build play.
That is perhaps where Benteke showed his biggest flaws, as he was dreadful playing this role. His pace was very slow, due to which he had lack of possession. He became stagnated when off the ball. Also, he was absolutely negligent as far as the defence was concerned. As was evident on the field, even his team-mates grew increasingly frustrated at his inability as the game wore on. Benteke completed just 63.3 percent of his passes at Wembley, less than any other outfield player.
When it came to playing in areas that mattered—in each sides’ penalty area—Benteke was always overpowered by a fiery Mertesacker, with most of his nine duels won coming in wide areas. Basically, he was far from the strong centre-forward that Villa needed, and Rodgers seems to think can help Liverpool progress. Of course, it might sound unfair to write Benteke off based on one dismal team performance, but this display indicated his overall game—limited, and one-dimensional.
It appears as though it’s the Mario Balotelli situation all over again for Liverpool. Like Benteke, Balotelli survives when players run off him, and he likes to drop deep to help influence play. Like Benteke and Villa, when Liverpool are unable to play to Balotelli’s strengths—and arguably they never have—he is a non-essential figure; completely wasted in an unsuitable system.
Balotelli is likely to look for new opportunities this summer, and if Liverpool replace him with a player who would find himself in very similar situations having cost twice as much, both club and striker will have made a huge mistake.
Rodgers should instead look out for other players, and not sign on Christian Benteke as not only would that prove to evoke a sense of déjà vu, but also end up being disastrous for Liverpool.