When Christian Benteke signed for Crystal Palace I wasn’t particularly impressed. At the time were blinded by the price tag and were desperate for a big name signing to replace Yannick Bolasie who had just departed for Everton.
The reason I wasn’t particularly impressed was because I saw him as a younger version of Emmanuel Adebayor only with a better attitude. I also didn’t think he was a ‘Crystal Palace player’ in the sense of the kind of style we usually like our forwards to play.
That isn’t to say I don’t think Benteke is a good player, he is and when experts say they think he is the best header of a ball in Europe they are probably correct. But I think the problem we’ll have with Benteke is the same as we had with Adebayor, football has moved on from the type of striker they are.
Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fool and his teams play the type of football that is becoming the way to play, not too dissimilar to how we used to try and play.
Ever since I was a child my second team was Borussia Dortmund. This was because I had two brothers stationed in the army there and I’d visited the city on countless occasions. It was because of this that I knew what Klopp was like as a coach and what he expected from his players. So when it was obvious that he was trying to get rid of Benteke I knew he wasn’t the right player for us!
Ever since our promotion season we have survived in the Premier League because we have had a solid defence and a quick breaking counter attack. We expect our players to put in a shift and want our attackers to defend. This is exactly what Klopp wants of his players and then some! Benteke, however good an attacker he might be, just isn’t the type to run his bollocks off for the cause.
We saw against Swansea that Benteke was responsible for 3 of their 5 goals because he either switched off or couldn’t be arsed when defending a set piece. That is unforgivable and while Hennessey was at fault for Swansea’s first goal, it seems that nobody in the team felt they could give Benteke a bollocking when he made the mistake the first time to ensure it didn’t happen again.
Where are the player’s on the pitch who have the big mouths to yell and shout at players like Jedinak used to do? Does Hennessey command the defence enough at set pieces? Does Dann have the bark to pull players into line?
All I can say is when Delaney was captain last season when Jedinak wasn’t picked he seemed to be able to organise the defence well enough. It seems currently that we couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery!
Does Delaney and Benteke get on? After Delaney’s comments last season and after we signed Benteke this season (that he wan’t Messi) it could be that he is being sacrificed so Benteke doesn’t get shouted at.
Of course there is a niche for players who are good in the air if somewhat devoid of speed and eagerness to defend but if last year showed us anything it is that counter attacking teams with pace, power, who press the defence and defend as a team that is the way forward.
Last season it was Leicester and, after Klopp’s arrival, Liverpool started to get in on the act. This season Liverpool have started to perfect what Klopp started and Chelsea have got in on the act as well.
Teams who play with the traditional big target man are failing to do well this season. West Ham, Stoke, Crystal Palace, Everton (albeit they started out well), Middlesborough and, dare I say it, Manchester United are struggling with a big man up front. Even Arsenal are using their target man, Oliver Giroud, sparingly from the bench.
Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal are playing with smaller, technically gifted players in the central role and it is paying off.
I have no doubt that Christian Benteke is a good player but to play to his strengths we have to sacrifice too much on the pitch and off of it. Who knows what Pardew’s plan was for Loic Remy playing in the team with Benteke and we might never find out.
I just get the feeling that we’ve turned up at a party only to find everyone has just left to go somewhere else.
The days of lumping it up to the big target man are over and Liverpool managed to get their money back. Let’s hope he retains his sell on value!