Christian Benteke might not score every week for Crystal Palace. He might not be the most confident in front of goal these days and is without a doubt a shadow of his former self, but his excellent performance against West Bromwich Albion showed why he deserves a shot in Roy Hodgson’s starting line-up once again.
Christian Benteke Deserves a Return to the Crystal Palace Starting Line-Up
More Than a Goalscorer
Since his debut season in South London, where he scored 17 goals in 40 appearances, the Belgian has failed to live up to his £32 million price tag.
At the start of the season, Benteke was arguably the fourth choice striker. Wilfried Zaha was moved up-front in a new 4-4-2 system, meaning there was only one space alongside him. Jordan Ayew filled that void earlier in the season before summer signing Michy Batshuayi regained his fitness, but neither kind find the back of the net as Hodgson’s side relied on the form of Zaha.
As a result, the towering Belgian was rewarded with his first start in the Premier League this season at The Hawthorns. When asked before the game as to why he was starting, Hodgson pointed to a slight tactical tweak.
“Well, to be fair, he’s been working hard to get back in the team,” the Palace boss said. “He’s done very well in training, he’s done well in the occasions I’ve put him on at the end of games.
“Obviously we haven’t scored in the last couple of games and I think it’s the right time to give him a chance to show what he can do alongside Wilf, because that’s the only combination we haven’t used yet.”
Benteke repaid his manager’s faith in him with a near-perfect performance. He found the back of the net twice, and his ability to bring Zaha and Eberechi Eze into the game was superb.
The 30-year-old had five shots at goal, won two aerial duels and made 19 passes during the game. He stayed central, maintaining a presence in front of the Baggies area, while Eze and Zaha floated, occupying pockets of space just behind their team-mate.
Deserves a Run in the Starting Line-Up
The Belgian did not terrorise the Albion defence by any means, but his presence proved tough to deal with and changed the game for Palace. As a result, he deserves a run of games in the starting line-up.
He doesn’t score every week or look like he will find the back of the net, but his all-round game and presence showed to Roy Hodgson what he can do. While he may find it tough against title-challenging Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, games against West Ham United and Aston Villa may offer the perfect shot at redemption.
If Benteke does get a shot, then it may bring out the very best in Eze and Zaha, who can occupy and utilise the pockets of space behind him and out wide. Palace fans will not expect too much to soon, but it has the potential to be an exciting front three.
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