Why Liverpool striker Christian Benteke won’t be just a target man
Liverpool striker Christian Benteke won't suffer Andy Carroll's fate at Anfield following his £32.5m move
Christian Benteke’s £32.5m move to Liverpool garnered tentative approval this week as thoughts of Andy Carroll’s maligned spell at Anfield resurfaced for many at Liverpool.
When Brendan Rodgers was appointed as Liverpool manager in May 2012, the Northern Irishman inherited the club’s most-expensive signing from Kenny Dalglish just 18 months after Carroll swapped Tyneside for Merseyside in a £35m deal.
Within weeks of Rodgers’s arrival at Anfield, Carroll’s future looked unsurprisingly bleak due to his lack of technical ability and unsuitability to the style of play which had brought Rodgers such great success at Swansea City.
The 26-year-old would move on loan to West Ham United later that summer before he sealed a permanent £15m move in 2013. The striker’s well-documented fitness struggles since suggest Rodgers made a shrewd decision.
His latest transfer market manoeuvre has been greeted with scepticism, though, after the club made a significant outlay on a striker with similar attributes to Carroll.
Costing £2.5m shy of Carroll’s record transfer, Benteke stands just 1 centimetre short of the England international and has been bracketed in the same category as the West Ham striker: target man.
While the physical comparisons are as inevitable as they are understandable, it is here that the similarities end.
Benteke has put his fitness issues behind him, unlike Carroll. The Belgian recovered from a serious knee injury and went on to rack up 2,290 minutes of Premier League action last term, which should allay fears of a potential relapse.
He initially struggled to rediscover his goal-scoring touch, but Paul Lambert’s successor Tim Sherwood coaxed goal-scoring form from the striker following his appointment and Benteke netted 12 times in his last 13 games as a Villa player.
He moves to Anfield after a return of 42 goals in 89 league appearances – encouragingly for the Reds, only Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie have scored more in the past three Premier League seasons.
While Carroll scored a goal every 205 minutes last season, Benteke averaged a goal every 176 minutes. He also had 4.6 attempts per goal scored, which was also more efficient than the England man.
Encouragingly, the 24-year-old striker attempted 14 dribbles, which is just one short of his new injury-ravaged Liverpool team-mate Daniel Sturridge and 12 more than Carroll. Such adventure with the ball at his feet suggests that there is more to Benteke than his height and power.
He will be required to contribute more than the two assists that he created last term, but this is more reflective of Villa’s lack of quality and their relegation struggles than Benteke’s inability to bring others into the game.
Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana will be the attacking midfield trio that will look to capitalise on Benteke’s strengths. The former Genk man should thrive with such fine attacking talent playing in a supporting role.
So while Rodgers has ultimately turned to a player with some similar qualities to Carroll in a bid to reverse the Anfield inertia, Benteke should offer the Liverpool manager a more-rounded package than the £35m man.
And perhaps most vital of all, Benteke is a Rodgers signing. Clearly, the Liverpool boss believes the £32.5m man can offer something to his Reds side that Carroll couldn’t.
Data courtesy of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, the Official Player Rating Index of the Barclays Premier League