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Christian Benteke Season Review: A Square Peg in a Round Hole

Via AllinOneSports

Arriving for a tidy £32m sum last summer as Brendan Rodgers’ marquee signing, Christian Benteke never seemed to fit the Liverpool side as many critics believed would be the case.  The Belgian’s strengths almost perfectly lined up with Liverpool’s weaknesses, and this unfortunate mix was on full display throughout the 2015-16 season.  Benteke never fit in with the side nor Rodgers’ or Jürgen Klopp’s style of play.  Although Benteke was a continual disappointment for Liverpool fans especially being the Reds’ second largest signing in club history, he is not an entirely bad player—he simply does not fit the Reds’ playing style.  As a result, Liverpool should be able to move on from the Belgian and recoup a significant chunk of the £32m they signed him for a year ago.

Over 42 appearances in all competitions, Benteke recorded an underwhelming mark of 10 goals and 6 assists.  In comparison to the Belgian’s 2014-2015 season with Aston Villa where he recorded 15 goals and three assists in eight fewer appearances for a side that barely staved off relegation, Benteke’s output this season was extremely disappointing.  Benteke notoriously looked bereft of confidence in all aspects of the game from missing easy chances to incredibly poor hold up play.  He averaged an incredibly low 16.5 passes per match, and only completed 66.4% of them.  Additionally, Benteke had a poor shooting accuracy of only 44.4%—a big reason why he was only able to record a goal every 168.7 minutes in EPL action.  For comparison, Daniel Sturridge scored every 122.4 minutes and put 54.8% of his shots on target despite not being a full match fit at any point in the season.  Furthermore, Benteke completed only one key pass per match, a number that is somehow lower than the 1.1 times he was dispossessed every 90 minutes.  Benteke’s ineptitude was very clear to see throughout the course of the season.  Even though he was viewed in a slightly better light under Rodgers than he was under Klopp, much of this has to do with the rest of the squad performing well below standards under Rodgers.  Benteke thrived at Aston Villa because the entire game plan was based around playing through the Belgian’s strengths.  Villa made a concerted effort to get as many crosses into the box as possible in order to give Benteke as many chances as possible to do what he does best—attack the ball in the air.  Liverpool, on the other hand, attempted the fewest crosses in the Premier League in 2014-2015 making the Reds ill-suited to Benteke’s style.  Not much changed this season either as both Rodgers and Klopp prefer a style that demands intricate link-up play from strikers rather than the more direct style that was employed for Benteke at Villa.  Benteke was never going to succeed in Liverpool’s system as he is just not the all-around striker the Reds wanted.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Benteke struggled for game time under Klopp was his inability to press.  In his 29 Premier League appearances, Benteke only made six tackles and not even one interception.  Benteke is such an inept tackler that he actually committed more fouls than he won, 29-26.  As mentioned throughout each season review of the Liverpool squad, Klopp requires his players work harder off the ball than on it.  This is a trait that Benteke simply does not possess or does not want to try and build.  As his measly playing time under Klopp illustrates, Benteke’s unwillingness to work on this side of his game was not overlooked in the German’s team selection.

Whether it be his inability to fit with Liverpool’s attacking style or his unwillingness to close down defenders and press the ball, Benteke was a horrible fit at Anfield.  The Belgian’s one biggest strength—his power in the air—was never a big part of the Reds’ game plan at any point this season, and this does not appear to be changing anytime soon.  Klopp is building his side to be a fluid attacking unit that needs the strikers to run the channels and get in behind opposing defenses, something Benteke has never shown a propensity to do.  When asked to try and make clever runs and use pace to stretch the defense, Benteke was continually caught offside, much to the chagrin of fans and his teammates.  To put it simply, Benteke needs to be sold this summer before his market value plunges even further.  As it currently stands, the Reds should be able to recoup about £20-25m of the £32m they bought him for.  If Benteke is forced to stay on Merseyside for another season, this could drop his resale value well below the £20m mark as it does not seem as though the Belgian is anywhere close to the starting eleven.  According to the Mirror, Benteke is wanted by West Ham to be their new number nine.  This would be a fantastic move for the Belgian as the Hammers employ a very direct style of play that would perfectly suit Benteke’s strengths.  This would be a perfect resolution for both player and club that luckily appears to be the most likely solution to Benteke’s unhappiness at his lack of playing time.  Hopefully, these rumors turn into a concrete transfer in the coming months before Benteke’s reputation plunges even further.

 


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