Football

Christian Benteke joined Liverpool in the summer from Aston Villa.

Christian Benteke has become Plan B at Liverpool

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When Liverpool announced the signing of Christian Benteke during the summer transfer window, it split the opinion of many Kopites.

Reputation

On the one hand, the Reds were getting a proven Premier League goalscorer. During the 2014/15 season, Liverpool bagged just 52 league goals and they were distinctly toothless in front of goal. They severely felt the effects of the loss of Luis Suarez and the injury setbacks of Daniel Sturridge.

Benteke fired on all cylinders for Aston Villa, especially after Tim Sherwood took charge of the Birmingham outfit. He arrived with a stellar reputation having netted 42 goals from 89 league appearances at Villa Park and Liverpool had previously felt the wrath of the Belgium international on five occasions, one of which knocked them out of the FA Cup semi-final.

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Gamble

However, on the other hand, Benteke fit a similar profile to that of other strikers who've came, saw and failed at Anfield. Andy Carroll's stint at Liverpool following his £35 million switch from Newcastle turned out to be a well-documented failure, likewise Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli. The trio were dubbed as 'big target men' when they first made their move and inevitably failed.

Liverpool paid a kings ransom for Benteke, meeting his £32.5 million buy-out clause and they hoped he would be an answer to their goalscoring problems.

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Over half-a-season into his career on Merseyside and Benteke has fallen into the trap that the three aforementioned forwards did.

Once a ruthless striker who struck fear into defenders, Benteke has now succumbed to being Plan B. At Villa, he played with such confidence and rawness but, contrastingly, the 25-year-old in recent weeks has looked unsettled and disinterested.

Benteke started his Liverpool career with a goal on his home debut against Bournemouth. However, he's never managed to hit the ground running since and, although he's showed his talent on numerous occasion, he's not built on any momentum.

Failure to adapt

The biggest problem that posed Benteke when joining the Reds was whether he would be able to adapt. At Villa, tactics were revolved around him. Villa got the ball into wide areas and looked to utilise Benteke's physical attributes to their advantage by whipping crosses into the box.

His move to Anfield meant that he would be forced to change his playing style. Brendan Rodgers' philosophy of fast, counter-attacking football meant Benteke would have to learn a new system that would no longer make him the main man.

Fans accepted that it would take Benteke a short while to educate himself on the Liverpool way; however, after six months, there's reason to sympathise why they have become frustrated with the ex-Genk striker.

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From 29 appearances, he's registered a disappointing seven goals. He's still the club's top scorer, but a greater return was expected.

Movement

Benteke's principal obstacle that's faced him has been his movement - or lack of it.

Liverpool fans have witnessed Suarez and Sturridge making darting runs in behind defenders in recent years, menacing the opposition's back-four and getting into killer positions.

Benteke has not provided the Reds this. He's been far too static inside the box and not made peeling or checked runs that provide him space and make himself a viable option for his teammates.

Tony Cascarino pointed this problem out.

"He's got this awful habit of standing alongside centre-halves which you cannot do. You have to move, create space for yourself to try and get opportunities," Cascarino told Sky Sports News.

Jamie Carragher also flagged up Benteke's biggest flaw.

"We were watching Jurgen Klopp in the first half, and he was so frustrated with Benteke's runs, his movement, the positions he was taking up. A lot of the time he was in the wrong position." Carragher said following Liverpool's win against Sunderland.

Benteke's compatriot, Divock Origi, leapt ahead of him in the pecking order when Klopp took charge in December. Origi came off the bench before Benteke away against Watford and started upfront over his fellow countryman when Liverpool hosted Leicester City on Boxing Day.

In the absence of the injured trio Sturridge, Origi and Danny Ings, Klopp has been reluctant to give Benteke responsibility to lead the Liverpool forward line and has instead deployed Roberto Firmino as a false number nine for the most part.

FBL-ENG-LCUP-LIVERPOOL-STOKE

Benteke has played in less meaningful games, featuring when coming off the bench in more important matches of late. He started when Liverpool travelled to Exeter City in the third round of the FA Cup alongside an inexperienced team filled with youth. It was a chance for him to stake his claim and set an example; instead, he shirked away from responsibility.

He also started in the replay of the tie at Anfield. Benteke had two chances that went begging against Exeter. He also proved his unwillingness to get into dangerous areas; instead, he was stood in no man's land on occasions, deep on the edge of the box as opposed to getting himself into the mixer.

Closing down

Benteke has also been reluctant to work as Klopp's first defender.

Borussia Dortmund had so much success because the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were willing to work their socks off from the front.

Ings already did this when he was fit under Rodgers and Origi also lead the front-line boldly and chased down the opponent to start counter-attacks for the Reds.

But Benteke has not provided his manager with the chasing down expected.

"When Klopp came in, Origi started his first game at Spurs and we highlighted the work he put in," said Carragher in the turn of the New Year.

"That's what Klopp wants - we know that from Dortmund - and Benteke is not that type of player. He gives Klopp a problem in that he is the one goalscorer they have."

FBL-ENG-FACUP-LIVERPOOL-WEST HAM

Now Benteke has to settle for a place on the substitutes bench in league matches.

He had two decent chances in Liverpool's FA Cup fourth round draw against West Ham United but again fluffed his lines on both occasions and had a day at the office to forget.

Unless Benteke begins adopting Klopp's intended tactics, by working hard from the front and improving his movement in the danger area, it's difficult to see how he can become a key player at Anfield.

Do you think Liverpool should look to sell Benteke in the summer? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!

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Topics:
Premier League
Liverpool
FA Cup
Football
Steven Gerrard
Christian Benteke
Aston Villa

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