Sunday 19 November 2017

Why Christian Benteke could be a bad signing for Liverpool

Christian Benteke
Christian Benteke

Alistair Tweedale

So Liverpool have a sizeable transfer kitty once again, and recent years would tell us that that is not necessarily a good thing.

The club have spent the £125 million recouped from the sales of Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres on some successful players, and some less so.

Whom exactly they decide to spend their latest windfall on will be vital for the season ahead and failure could prove fatal for Brendan Rodgers.

Rumours are abound that it will be Christian Benteke who will take up the majority of the near-£50m soon to be received for the transfer of Raheem Sterling to Manchester City. It is thought that Liverpool are the only club willing to meet the Belgian's £32.5m release clause.

Quite rightly, however, serious questions are being asked as to whether Benteke is the right fit for Liverpool.

Andy Carroll was the wrong fit; Stewart Downing was the wrong fit; Mario Balotelli was the wrong fit; Fabio Borini, Robbie Keane and Rickie Lambert, too. Why should we believe that a move for Benteke would work?

His greatest strength is his ability in the air. He won 188 aerial duels last season – the most in the Premier League despite making only 29 appearances. To put that into context, Southampton's Graziano Pelle won the second-most, with 176, but having played in all 38 games.

Aerial duels won in 2014-15

Player Aerial duels won

Christian Benteke 188

Graziano Pellè 176

Jason Shackell 170

Peter Crouch 156

Steven Caulker 146

Also, since he moved to England, Benteke has scored more headed Premier League goals (13) than any other player.

Headed goals in last three seasons

Player Goals (headed)

Christian Benteke 13

Olivier Giroud 12

Peter Crouch 10

Marouane Fellaini 8

John Terry 8

However, Liverpool tend to play fairly narrowly, and wide players often cut inside rather than pump balls into the box. They attempted fewer crosses in open play (409) than any other team in the Premier League last season, so Benteke might struggle to make an impact at Anfield.

 He holds the ball up brilliantly, preferring to play with his back to goal and bring others into play. That could benefit Liverpool’s attacking midfielders, such as Philippe Coutinho and the newly signed Roberto Firmino, but opportunities to do so may be hard to come by for a Liverpool side that prefer to look for short passes rather than long and direct towards a striker.

Only Arsenal and Man City played fewer long passes last season or played a smaller proportion of their passes long than Liverpool, and their passing game would not suit the Belgian. He is a decent player technically, but he is unlikely to be able to contribute much to quick, intricate moves on the edge of the box.

Indeed, Liverpool ranked third for successful through balls last season (also behind Arsenal and City) and lacking in pace, Benteke does not look to run onto passes in behind very often at all.

History tells us that players who succeed at other Premier League clubs – and thus come at a premium – do not necessarily succeed elsewhere. Liverpool have plenty of previous in this regard.

Even if he is an established Premier League striker, the fact that Benteke, costing the majority of the cash garnered from the Sterling deal, might well struggle with Liverpool's style of play means he probably would not be worth the risk and such a significant outlay.

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