Lambert: Injury break aided Benteke
Published 30/01/2014 | 18:42
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert believes Christian Benteke's difficult start to the season may prove to be a blessing in disguise.
A recent knee injury led to the striker having an extended break which Lambert reckons has helped spark his startling return to form recently.
The Villa boss also revealed he has received no interest in Benteke from other clubs this month, unlike last summer when he had to fight hard to keep the Belgian in the Midlands.
Benteke has returned to form in recent weeks with three goals in as many games, including the penalty winner in Wednesday's 4-3 derby victory over West Brom.
His recent purple patch follows an inauspicious start to the season blighted by injuries, poor performances and a lack of goals, following a sublime first term last year and a turbulent summer which saw him request a transfer only to change his mind.
"He's scored three in three and I think the break for Christian with his knee (was important)," Lambert said.
"Sometimes it's not about getting treatment on an injury - it's about managing it and man-managing someone. Giving him that break has certainly been great for him and he's come back and scored three in the last three games.
"But it's his general game that has picked up. His actual level of performance has been really, really high."
Lambert added: "It's about recognising what your player needs.
"We knew he had a knee problem and he was playing through it. It wasn't getting any better so we had to think of something else to try and do and gave him that little bit of a break.
"He's come back and he's been excellent. But I think people forget that Christian's season last season started way before anybody else's because he was playing for Genk before coming here.
"So he's played a lot of games for such a young lad. To come here and do what he's done is going to drain him. But since he's come back he's been excellent."
Benteke scored 23 goals in all competitions last season, sparking interest from other clubs in the summer. Lambert eventually convinced him to stay put - and revealed there has been nobody sniffing around in the January window.
"There's been no interest whatsoever. None," he said.
"Any manager will tell you the January window isn't great.
"It's good for the media frenzy but I never get drawn right into it. I understand people not wanting to spend lots of money. It's not right and it's not good for the game, because you can panic and go and buy someone you don't really want for lots of money.
"But Christian's ability has always been there. People know what he can do. But it's sustaining that level."