When Liverpool announced the signing of Christian Benteke after a protracted chase during the summer, a number of the Anfield were up in arms at the signing.
At first glance, the Belgian perhaps isn’t a Liverpool style player; at 6ft 4in, he’s more of a target man than a skilful orator in the mould of Luis Suarez, who he has essentially been brought in to replace.
And yet his goal record – 43 goals in 91 games for an Aston Villa side that largely struggled in the Belgian’s time there – is fantastic. Extend that ratio of a goal every 2.1 games across a whole season in an attacking line-up and you can easily see the 25-year-old returning 20 goals or more: the Holy Grail for any attacker worth their salt.
Bookies.com, a highly respected tipping website, have marked Benteke down as a well-priced outsider for the Premier League Golden Boot market, and with his current goal record it would be hard to argue with them.
But can he fit into this Liverpool side well enough to maintain that healthy scoring run?
Most of Benteke’s criticism comes in the form of unfavourable comparisons to Suarez. When Liverpool enjoyed their most successful campaign in decades back in 2013/14, it was largely down to the goals of an attacking triumvirate of the Uruguayan, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. Two of that three are now notable by their absences.
Fortunately, Philippe Coutinho is showing signs that he is set to realize his undoubted potential in the ‘Sterling’ role. Picking up the ball in wide positions and darting inside, the intelligence of Coutinho’s play, allied with the movement of Benteke, created numerous openings in the games against Bournemouth and Arsenal, and it took a magnificent display from Petr Cech in the Gunners’ goal to keep them at bay. Even in a game where they enjoyed just 34% possession of the ball, Liverpool mustered eight shots on target and looked the more likely side to win the match.
A player who should gel nicely with Benteke and Coutinho, once he has settled into the English game, is Roberto Firmino. He has yet to pull up any trees in his three Liverpool starts to date, but the Premier League is played at a higher tempo than the Bundesliga, and so the Brazilian is perhaps still finding his feet.
Former Liverpool man Ryan Babel, who played with Firmino at Hoffenheim, has said: “He can dribble, shoot, he has a great shot, he can play a lot of through balls and his assists are very good.” Benteke would be the main beneficiary of such creativity.
If Sturridge can find some fitness and form in the near future, Brendan Rodgers could have an attacking quartet on his hands that rivals that Suarez/Sturridge/Sterling dream team. And those punters who have backed Benteke in the Golden Boot market, as suggested by Bookies.com, could be picking up their winnings come May next year.