The Benteke Conundrum - Does He Fit?

The Benteke Conundrum - Does He Fit?

Christian Benteke’s arrival was met in similar fashion to that of Moses as he made his way to the Red Sea. In this instance though it was the fan’s opinion of the player that was parted. Liverpool fans rarely see eye to eye on a player but the signing of the Aston Villa hitman really had people clambering to give a side their support.

Benteke Conundrum

On one side you had those blinded by goals, a necessity in the Premier League that Liverpool badly missed during the 2014/15 season. Choosing to ignore his style in favour of his goal record they all thought he’d be the signing to fire Liverpool back into the top four (he could yet still do just that) and they were more than happy for the club to fork out £32.5 million to bring him to Anfield because that’s the going rate for goals.

“He could be our Drogba.”

That’s nice, but you know, we don’t play like Chelsea so do we need a Drogba?

“Chelsea, United and Dortmund all wanted him so he must be good.”

Good to an extent but why didn’t Chelsea and United, both of who have considerably more money than Liverpool, make that move? If you say it’s because you can’t spend *that* much on a backup striker isn’t that exactly what Liverpool did?

Opposing this group were those that thought despite his encouraging goal record he’d be a poor fit for the Reds. Liverpool nearly won the league with a high pressing, rampant attack that combined style, technique, ability and work rate to obliterate the entire league, almost. The instigator of it all, Luis Suarez, was one in a million and could never be replaced. However that’s not to say a player of a similar style couldn’t have been bought. The Liverpool number 9 and Luis Suarez are like chalk and cheese. I don’t think any of those against signing Benteke doubted his ability, if anything it’s his strengths that made him a questionable signing. How would a big powerhouse striker suit the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and even Jordan Henderson? All of whom come alive with movement ahead and around them?

Are goals enough?

It seems odd to type this but we have a striker that’s scored 5 goals in 1010 minutes (roughly 11 games) and there are question marks over his place in the team. The 1 in 2 record is similar to his Villa days so why are fans in favour of his signing now questioning him?

Is his inclusion in the side having a negative impact on the side?

With the big Belgian on the pitch Liverpool have scored 11 goals, averaging 1 goal per game. Of course this includes the matches Brendan Rodgers was still in charge for when Liverpool were really struggling to create anything but the stat still stands. Liverpool with Benteke on the pitch average 1 goal every 90 minutes.  (Stats from Whoscored.com)

Without Benteke, Liverpool have played 700 minutes of football, which works out at 7.7 matches, in this time they’ve scored 15 goals. They’ve played 300 fewer minutes without Benteke, yet managed four more goals. Going off that rate so far had they played the same amount of minutes you’d be looking at Liverpool having scored 22 goals in 11 games (10 more than with Benteke).

In a nutshell, Liverpool score more goals without Benteke playing.

He’s scoring goals but the team seem to be struggling to do so with him leading the line. Will this be something that improves as the season progresses? After all, he can’t keep missing these sitters, can he?

There have been a few already this season and that’s excluding that chance he put over against Newcastle. He missed that one against Arsenal after Petr Cech flung himself across goal. Then there was one against Rubin at Anfield, when a cross came in and he didn’t hit the target from about six yards out. There were chances against Bordeaux, Crystal Palace and Swansea that you’d expect him to be putting on target, then of course that one on one against Man City he wasted after Jordon Ibe put him through.

I hear people say it’s encouraging that he’s getting into these positions, and it is, but how long can we give him the benefit of the doubt for that? He’s missing guilt edged chances on a regular basis and I thought buying Premier League proven (throws up in own mouth) players was supposed to cut out the bedding in period and they were expected to hit the ground running?

Adapt or Perish

In his early games for Liverpool Benteke’s movement surprised me in a positive way. He was trying to get in behind, he was showing for the ball and there was effort on his behalf. It’s been scarce ever since though.

We aren’t seeing him bullying defenders. We aren’t seeing him use his strength. We’re failing to see him really be up for the fight. If you’re Christian Benteke and you’ve just seen Sturridge announce his return with two superbly taken finishes against Southampton and then Divock Origi smash a hat-trick in the same game why aren’t I breaking my neck to get on the end of this cross?

Again, what sort of movement is this for a goalscorer?

He seems very reactionary as opposed to proactive. His goals so far this season have been instinctive finishes with very little thought needed. A top class striker needs to expect the unexpected, expect Moreno will cross that ball first time and get into the area a lot quicker than he does.

Players are like plants; with the right conditions they’ll flourish but you can’t pluck one that’s doing well somewhere else and expect the same results if you don’t do the exact same. Should Liverpool adapt their game to suit Benteke or vice versa? More importantly, does the latter have it in his locker do what’s needed to succeed at Liverpool?

Ask yourself, have Liverpool played well with Benteke and Coutinho or Firmino on the pitch? Is there a connection?