Crystal Palace have voiced their interest in Liverpool forward Christian Benteke and the out-of-favour striker could be just the solution to their problems in attack. The Premier League side will need all the firepower they can muster in order to compete in the top flight and Benteke has proven he can cause defenders problems. At Aston Villa he was one of the best strikers in the league and Palace will be hoping he can deliver similar performances for them. They’re prepared to splash the cash in the hope Benteke will become their next star man.
Christian Benteke lit up the Premier League during the 2014-15 season as his Aston Villa side battled to stay in the top flight. He notched up 16 goals for Villa in his final season after producing three consecutively impressive seasons in which he totalled 42 league goals. His aerial threat was too much for defenders to handle and he shared similar qualities to that of former Chelsea striker, Didier Drogba. The Belgian gave Aston Villa options at set pieces but also delivered great pace and power to beat defenders. There were qualities which attracted Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool transfer committee and he joined the Reds for a massive £35m last summer.
However, since his arrival at Anfield, Benteke hasn’t delivered. He was Liverpool’s second most expensive signing (after Andy Carroll) and he’s produced little to demonstrate his price tag was worth it. Brendan Rodgers insisted on playing the forward at the start of the season but when Jurgen Klopp came to Anfield, he recognised the Belgian was short of form and out-of-favour with the Kop’s faithful fans. The German boss has often chosen to play Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge and even Roberto Firmino in the striker’s role ahead of Benteke and he’s been very much made to feel like an outcast by Klopp. Despite his poor performances for Liverpool, Palace are still open to paying up to £25m for the striker and it’s an offer Liverpool can’t really refuse.
Benteke’s stats from last season don’t give him much credit either. In 41 appearances for Liverpool, he scored just ten goals, including one in the Europa League. He only made 14 Premier League starts but he was ineffective as a substitute on many occasions. In 1520 minutes of league action, nine goals is nowhere near the rate in which he converted goals at Aston Villa. For somebody whose strengths lie in aerial battles, finishing and direct free-kicks, he showed very little in a red shirt and was unable to provide more than 3 assists along with his less than emphatic goal record.
However, there were signs of promise from the Belgian amidst an overly poor season for Liverpool. His goal against Manchester United, where he converted a wonderful over-head kick on the edge of the box to score against the league rivals, demonstrated the quality the striker possesses. He did also score some important goals for Liverpool and the majority of those came off the bench. Six of his tally were as a substitute and five of those came in the last quarter of the match. But the over-riding factor is that he scored on just four occasions against a team in top half of the Premier League (Southampton, Leicester City, Chelsea x2) and for a striker at Liverpool, he’s expected to make an impact in the big games. Unfortunately for the Reds, he failed to do so.
Although he wasn’t the right man for Liverpool, he could be just the ticket for Crystal Palace. For Aston Villa, Benteke scored 42 goals in just 89 league appearances. He netted 15 times for a team that finished just one place above the relegation zone and eight of those were against top ten teams including winners against Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton and Crystal Palace. He also scored in their 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Villa Park in December. It was a huge contrast from last season in which he finished 24th in the top goalscorers list for the Premier League.
Palace’s style of play would suit Benteke. They often have less than 50% of the possession in games and the Belgian striker offers options from the long ball and also has the ability to hold play-up to allow his team-mates to join in the attack. Palace also have midfielders who can provide goals, taking the pressure off Benteke slightly; Bolasie and Cabaye both netted five goals last season. Crystal Palace’s forwards, Frazier Campbell, Adebayor and Chamakh managed to score just one goal between them in 12 starts and 33 appearances and that’s a very worrying tally.
The club will be fighting to stay in the Premier League after finishing in 15th position last season. However, with Alan Pardew as their manager, they’ll be sure to dig deep and he often gets the best out of his players. Benteke needs a change of scenery and a fresh start and Palace are providing him with that opportunity. With Andros Townsend already snapped up, Palace will have some real goal threat if they follow through on the signing of Benteke. His wages may be off-putting but if he can produce similar performances to that of his Aston Villa days, the forward could keep them in the Premier League and that’s priceless.