Christian Benteke Can Still Be a Huge Asset for Crystal Palace

Christian Benteke

In careers which can span up to 20 years, it is obvious that footballers will hit dips in form. Although it must be said, Christian Benteke’s dip in the past three years is more comparable to the Grand Canyon. With five goals in his past 68 outings for Crystal Palace, the once prolific scorer’s confidence appears shot to pieces. However, his recent performance at Goodison Park against Everton has got Palace fans talking. It appears the big man is not going down without a fight.

Christian Benteke Can Still Be an Asset for Crystal Palace

Where Did it All Go Wrong?

When Benteke arrived at a struggling Aston Villa side, it did not take long for him to make an impact. With 23 goals in his debut season, he averaged a goal every other game during his next three seasons. His 6’3″ frame, lethal finishing and eye for the spectacular rendered him pretty much unplayable when he was on song. Meanwhile, he provided a stiff challenge to Romelu Lukaku’s starting spot as the number nine for the Belgium national team.

Having jumped ship one year before Villa’s inevitable relegation, Benteke got his dream opportunity in a £32.5 million move to Liverpool. Things got off to a good start, netting a sumptuous overhead kick at Old Trafford just one month in. However, it quickly became apparent that Benteke was not particularly well-suited to Jurgen Klopp’s pacey, ‘rock n roll’ style of play. After finishing the season with nine league goals, a disappointed Benteke returned to the relative ‘small-time’ of Crystal Palace.

A respectable return of 15 league goals in 2016/17 put him above the likes of Sadio Mane, Jamie Vardy and Son Heung-min in the scoring charts. For £27 million, many praised the acquisition given the perception of ‘guaranteed goals’ that he seemed to bring. Having survived comfortably, most expected the following season to bring more of the same. As he sought retribution for his shortcomings at Anfield, nobody expected the sustained drop in form that followed.

Stuck in a Rut

In a team which relies so heavily on the pace and trickery of direct, attacking wingers who are more likely to cut in than go for the by-line, Benteke has found reliable service into the box hard to come by. In a rigid 4-5-1 purpose-built not to concede, the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend and Luka Milivojevic have brought sufficient goals to maintain a steady flow of points. Indeed, there has been no incentive to change the system. As a result, Benteke has had to transition from a player who relies on service towards a player who himself provides service to midfield support.

Obviously, this transition has not been easy – his lack of goals speaks for itself. The likes of Connor Wickham and Michy Batshuayi were half-heartedly drafted in to boost attacking options but to limited effect.

In Palace’s 3-1 loss to Everton on Saturday, Christian Benteke may have been surprised to see his name on the team-sheet. Flanked by Wilfred Zaha and the impressive Jordan Ayew either side, Benteke displayed some fantastic hold-up play before getting on the scoresheet himself. Granted, it took a Jordan Pickford howler for it to happen, but his first goal of the season will bring him much needed confidence at a time when loan arrival Cenk Tosun puts his position under significant threat. Yes, Palace lost the game, but the promising signs displayed by the big Belgian have not gone unnoticed.

Moving Forwards

If Christian Benteke is to gain the trust of Roy Hodgson again, more performances of that nature are required. He made long balls stick and regularly turned to knock balls over the top for willing runners. His goal merely represented an added bonus.

With Tosun returning to fitness after a minor knock, Hodgson’s next move will be revealing. Even from his short and largely unsuccessful time at Everton, Tosun’s goal threat was obvious, even if he did offer little else. Benteke appears more adept at bringing in the guile and quality of Ayew and Zaha, if his most recent performance is anything to go by. It may ultimately be a matter of personal preference.

Let us not forget that Benteke is a striker who we have seen perform to an elite level in the top-flight for a number of seasons (albeit several years ago). Seventy-one Premier League goals in his first five years is testament to what he is capable of. These days, perhaps he has learned how to add something totally new to his game. Whether he can use this weekend as a platform remains to be seen but cast your minds back and the quality that lies within is a known fact.

 

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