Where has it gone wrong for Christian Benteke?
Christian Benteke used to be one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League. Now, he seems a joy to play against…
When Christian Benteke signed for Aston Villa on deadline day in the summer of 2012, many Villa fans thought the deal was symptomatic of their current strategy – the club were looking to save on costs following the appointments of Martin O’Neill and Gerard Houllier, and the expensive recruits they brought.
However, it did not take long for him to win over the Villa fans – in his first season at the club he was an Adonis up front, scoring 19 goals in 34 games, impressing with his tenacious, physical displays, as the archetypal “horrible centre forward to play against”.
Fast forward seven years later and the contrast could not be any starker – the Belgian is in a state that can no longer be simply described as a rut.
He has scored just four Premier League goals since the start of the 2017-18 season, despite making 46 appearances.
Roy Hodgson said new contract discussions were underway on Thursday afternoon, and that can’t have inspired too much confidence amongst Palace fans, who have watched a side bereft of attacking intent and chances so far, being led by Benteke.
So how has this domineering, intimidating forward become a gentle giant?
His move to Liverpool appears to have been the catalyst for his downfall. Signed for £32.5million from Villa after triggering a release clause, Benteke was tasked with trying to replace the goals of a departed Luis Suarez and a half-fit Daniel Sturridge.
In truth, it was a transfer that was never destined to work – Rodgers sold Andy Carroll three years previously because he didn’t feel a target man could fit into his tactical style, so why was it ever going to be different for Benteke?
Roy Hodgson confirms Christian Benteke (who has entered the final year of his current deal) and James Tomkins are in negotiations over extending their contracts at #cpfc: "If Christian signs a new contract, I'll be happy for him and happy to work with him."
— Dominic Fifield (@domfifield) August 22, 2019
Realistically, he was signed because he was available, and when Rodgers was sacked in October to be replaced by Jurgen Klopp, things would get worse.
Benteke spent most of the season on the bench and was allowed to leave for Crystal Palace after just one year on Merseyside.
His first year in South London was positive – 15 goals in 36 game seemed a good contribution, but things have fallen off a cliff since then.
Only three goals were scored in the 2017-18 season but things got worse last term, netting just a solitary goal all season.
Palace should be the club he thrives at most – there is pace and width in abundance with Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend so Benteke would be expected to get on the end of any deliveries.
Things have not worked though, and as Palace failed to get a striker through the door in the summer, they are going to have to be heavily reliant on a hopelessly out of form player to guide them to safety.
In truth, it seems like Benteke is a player whom too many expectations were thrust upon – he was first tipped to be the figurehead to steer Liverpool to another title charge and then the big-money capture to elevate Palace to a regular top half position.
Once the confidence goes, it is very hard to get back as Benteke has found to his cost, and it is a sorry state of affairs for a player once lauded by fans up and down the country.