It was hoped by many Liverpool supporters that Christian Benteke would leave the club before the end of the transfer window in a loan deal that would see the Belgian striker return to his previous club Aston Villa.
After the 0-0 draw with West Ham in the Emirates FA Cup, Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp had replied, when asked about any transfer news, “You have to wait in the next 48 hours and we will see if something happens or not”
It would have come out of the claret and blue, but unfortunately for many Reds fans, it did not happen.
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The surprising news comes as Aston Villa’s hopes of survival are becoming slimmer than a supermodel on a hunger-strike.
The Villain’s last 11 league games have seen them score only eight goals while conceding 16 so maybe a last-minute move to bolster the defensive ranks would have been more pressing, especially as Rudy Gestede is already at the club.
But only four goals in 22 games is not the return that Villa expected when they bought Gestede from Blackburn Rovers for £5.95 million in the summer.
So would a Benteke and Gestede strike force have fired in the goals to keep Aston Villa in the Premiership?
Definitely, maybe. In this topsy-turvy, rock-and-roll football season anything could happen. If Leicester’s position at the summit of the English game does not provide inspiration to Remi Garde’s battered troops then nothing will.
“He who dares, wins” as an inspirational leader once said.
Meanwhile, Benteke must remain on Merseyside and continue to try to justify his £140,000 per-week wages.
As one of Liverpool’s top earners, Benteke was expected to score the goals that would blast the Reds back into the top-four Champions League places. His one goal every two games average at Aston Villa was steady if not spectacular and it was expected that the increased number of chances that would come from playing in a better team would see him catapult towards the goal-per-game bracket currently occupied by Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and Jamie Vardy.
So far that has not happened.
In fact, his goal record at Liverpool is much worse despite getting more chances. It was questioned at the time of the transfer whether Beneteke could fit into the style of play under then-manager Brendan Rodgers and those negative voices have grown louder and louder with each header over the bar from six yards, and every one-on-one with the goalkeeper but couldn’t score in a house of ill repute-type situation.
In Benteke’s defence, an analysis of the goals that he scored at Aston Villa shows that they were not so much playing to Benteke’s strengths, but playing to Benteke, full stop.
The Christian Benteke that was such a feared marksman for Aston Villa had an uncanny knack of finding space in the penalty box and using that extra yard-and-a-half to control and hit an unstoppable shot, or guide a powerful header unerringly into the net.
And what was that uncanny knack?
Well, he would simply run the wrong way!
Benteke finds space in the penalty area by making counter-intuitive runs that deceive his markers because often he is moving away from the goal. However, because he was the main man at Aston Villa and played in every game, his team-mates would expect him to make those counter-intuitive runs and as a result, delay their passes - creating numerous goal-scoring opportunities.
The predicament at Liverpool is that when Benteke makes those runs, his team-mates are increasingly ignoring him and choosing another option.
The only problem for Klopp is that with the Belgian moving away from goal, the main striking threat goes with him and that makes it easier for opposition centre-backs to defend against this Liverpool team.
But now that Christian Benteke is confined to the substitute’s bench, Liverpool can settle down and play with Roberto Firmino as a false number nine, as opposed to playing with a not-very-good number nine.
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