So, thankfully Liverpool managed to collect all three points on Sunday after a stunning strike from Coutinho. It was a pretty drab performance otherwise for the Reds and I, like many other Liverpool fans, was keeping a close eye on that man, Christian Benteke.
My first post for Shoot made comparisons between Benteke and Balotelli, and on Sunday you would have done well to tell the difference. Balotelli, love him or loathe him, definitely suffered after playing as a lone striker on the few occasions he appeared for Liverpool last season. It was no surprise for me that one of his best performances came when playing alongside Daniel Sturridge. It’s a similar case for Benteke in my opinion and although we’re just one game in, I still feel there are some conclusions to be drawn from the Belgian’s first match.
Benteke looked lost for the majority of the game and why? Because he wasn’t supported. Liverpool have some very selfish players (which isn’t always a bad thing) and even players like James Milner and Jordan Henderson who you would expect to be whipping the ball in the box weren’t exactly on red alert for their target man. Liverpool recorded just 12 crosses throughout the 90 minutes on Sunday and eight of those crosses were unsuccessful. That’s nowhere near good enough.
The lack of crosses led to a lack of possession for Benteke, who had to take himself out of the danger area in order to get on the ball. The number nine managed one blocked shot during the game and made just five touches in the penalty area. What’s the point of buying a £32.5m striker and not playing him in a system that works? I’m probably overreacting a bit here (I am definitely overreacting) but the lack of crossing and support for our forwards has been an issue with me for a long while now, which is why I had my concerns about signing Christian. What’s worse is that if it continues to go on, it will be Benteke getting the blame and not his counterparts.
Benteke’s movement was relatively good on Sunday and he managed a 58% pass completion rate which isn’t bad for a forward. He also won 64% of his aerial duals proving that he’s a right handful for the opposition to deal with. He was never presented with the opportunity of an aerial dual in front of goal though, the chance to test Butland never really arose and he strikes me as a player who gets more and more frustrated the longer this lack of assistance goes on. One incident stood out when Henderson did decide to cross the ball but fluffed it, and Christian was then shown visibly complaining at the lack of accuracy on the cross.
He was completely taken out of the game by Stoke on Sunday and there will be plenty more occasions throughout the season where a team sets up like that. My hope is that Daniel Sturridge returns sooner rather than later and that Brendan Rodgers, for once, plays two up top.
He’s quite the stubborn mule Rodgers though, and I’m still trying to guess what his preferred XI will be as the season goes on. I’m definitely looking forward to the Bournemouth game on Monday night though.
What were your thoughts on Benteke’s first game?