THERE are many things about at the moment that have this feeling of inevitability. The English moaning about the good weather, tennis players beating tennis players who aren’t as good as them at tennis, and the transfer of Christian Benteke from Aston Villa to Liverpool.
I realise Benteke to Liverpool hasn’t happened, and may never happen, which some would argue may render this article null and void. However, for me the deed is done. It’s not whether the player will or won’t sign that is bugging me. Unless every single journalist in the country is collectively wrong about the same thing, Liverpool, and in particular Brendan Rodgers, want to sign Christian Benteke. My question is… why?
A few weeks ago I sat here and read an article on this very website by Melissa Reddy that outlined her various concerns about the Benteke links, and I practically tore muscles in my neck with all the agreeing I was doing. It hit the nail on the head. I tweeted that I wouldn’t bother writing what I had planned to on the matter as Melissa had not only covered it all, but varnished it and stuck a candle on top.
Then a few weeks went past and the signing still didn’t happen, and still hasn’t happened as of writing, but the daily stories that Benteke is still ‘the man that Liverpool want’ don’t show any signs of fading.
As those of you with a Liverpool passion will know, or in fact any football fan will, when your team makes a big move like this for someone you’re not all that keen on, you go through the football version of the Kübler-Ross model — the five stages of emotion more often associated with grief of losing a loved one. We do like to be dramatic don’t we?
First there is denial: “We’re not signing him. Rubbish source. That journo got a story wrong four years ago!” Then anger: “What we signing him for?! Sack everyone!” Then bargaining: “If we pull out of this deal I’ll drive to Boston and give John Henry a big kiss!” Then depression: “Another sixth place for us, lads. Club’s going nowhere” and of course the inevitable acceptance: “He might be good. He was good that one time I saw him. He will be good. He’s dead good!”
If you want to see the clearest case of this in action, look no further than Mario Balotelli. I remember vividly at the start of last summer when the search for Luis Suarez’s successor began that names were thrown from everywhere. So many names. Then Balotelli’s came up. From where I was sitting, it seemed to be a resounding “No!” — even from Rodgers.
Fast forward past the Sanchez to Arsenal transfer and heading closer to the end of the window, all of a sudden that ‘no’ became a bunch of ecstatic Liverpool fans taking their tops off and dunking ice-buckets on their heads with excitement at the purchase of the Italian.
This is not me judging as I fell for it myself. The same with Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana. I didn’t really want any of them, but once it became apparent that they were coming and Brendan hadn’t got my letters, I thought: “Fine, they might be great.” I’d soon convinced myself that Lovren and Sakho could be a league title-winning partnership, that Lallana could come away with 30 assists and that Lambert could score oodles of goals using only his heart.
However, I still haven’t gone down that route with Benteke. It feels weird. I thought I was just stuck on stage four, but to be honest I think I’ve created another stage. Stage 4.5. Confusion.
I’ve gone over it and over it and think I’ve come up with the reason as to why I’m stuck. To achieve acceptance you first need to discover that modicum of logic that the manager has seen, or that you’ve convinced yourself the manager has seen. You might not agree with it, but you can see why the decision is being taken, the thinking behind it. I’ve looked high and low, but the logic in Liverpool making Christian Benteke their big money striker signing just isn’t there to me.
Now to be clear, I know nothing that would get me anywhere near a training field. I haven’t even read Inverting the Pyramid (nothing to do with Egyptian protesters apparently). Brendan Rodgers is a Premier League manager with years of coaching experience, badges coming out of his ears (a silly place to keep them really) and the resources to scout anyone and anything football related in the world. I have the internet and Sky+.
It therefore frustrates me no end that I can’t see what Rodgers is seeing. No matter how many games I watch from his first and third seasons, or even his time at Swansea when he had Danny Graham up front, I can’t see how a Benteke type fits in, or improves what’s there.
All I ever keep coming back to is how we played when we were at our best under him, which obviously was the second half of the 2013-14 season, with a slight shout to the second half of the 2012-13 season. All I saw was pace. Searing pace. Scared opposing defenders. Creative midfielders who could pass through scared opposing defenders to pace. Pace who could finish.
LIVERPOOL GOALS SEASON 2013/14 | JUST LIVERPOOL FC from Melicher Laci on Vimeo.
The SAS partnership was a thing of beauty, but it’s always remembered as just two quality players being quality to the individual extent that it can’t be replicated. It wasn’t.
That partnership worked well, partly due to individual quality, but largely because it was two quick devastating strikers who both played on the shoulder of the last defender and caused mayhem by their mere presence. They needed the individual quality to go with it, but it was that coupled with their pace and constant intent to run in behind that allowed us to play with so much intense freedom. The Arsenal demolition, the Everton demolition, near enough every demolition from 2013-14 featured through balls or long balls in behind a defence for a brilliant striker to run onto and score.
If it hadn’t been made obvious enough by that season, then last season when Balotelli and Lambert had spent months taking turns at looking like a Fiat Multipla driving around Silverstone, only for Raheem Sterling to come in and change the entire effectiveness of the team just by being really quick, should surely have been a big enough slap in the face to emphasise that this Liverpool team thrives when it has pace up front willing to run off the last defender.
We all remember Sterling’s finishing, and how often erratic and sometimes brilliant it was, but what I remember most was how many times he was given the chance to take those shots. Lambert and Balotelli could go weeks without touching the ball in the opposition penalty area. Sterling rarely went a full minute without running at the opposition goal in some way.
The reason why this is so effective is that it keeps the opposition pinned back. Even if your strikers are having an off day, the constant attitude of the opposition backline must be “Let’s stay back here, otherwise they’ll run in behind us.” It allows extra space for the midfield, and to me a big underrated difference between last season and the season before was that our midfield had much less time on the ball. It became obvious as Sterling’s appearances started to see Phil Coutinho and Adam Lallana start to enjoy more of the ball and not rush so many passes.
Next season our midfield is likely to mostly feature Coutinho, Lallana, Jordan Henderson and new boys Roberto Firmino and James Milner. Unless Milner gets pushed out wide against his will, the middle of the Anfield pitch may as well be renamed ‘Through Ball City’. The potent crosses are unlikely to come from full-back either. Albi Moreno is terrible at them, and Nathaniel Clyne didn’t register a single assist last season.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, especially those of you who have managed to reach stage five. “Benteke isn’t a target man though.”
You’re absolutely right, he isn’t. However, my argument would be that neither are Lambert or Balotelli. It’s not about the fear that Rodgers wants us to lump long balls up to a big man, and even if it were, there would still be that hint of logic there. A tactic that is intended, however silly, and it was the logic that made me and others reach stage five on the ludicrous Andy Carroll deal.
Benteke is not just a big man, and he certainly has more to his game than Rickie and Mario, but the fact is that he’s a lot closer to a Lambert than he is to a Sturridge in terms of what he specialises in.
He’s excellent at what he does. He can link play, he can lay the ball off to a runner, he can pull off defenders (grow up) to get on the end of a cut back, he can win headers, he can shoot from distance, he’s got a pretty good package (grow up!). What of course is most important is that he can score goals. In the last three seasons he averages roughly a goal every other game. Impressive. Some would argue made all the more impressive by the fact he’s done it at a team near the bottom of the table.
What especially concerns me though is that last season under Paul Lambert, he was a waste of space. He scored two wonderful goals against Manchester United and Crystal Palace, and did nothing else of note until March. Many argued that this was down to Lambert’s negative tactics. Then Tim Sherwood came along.
Sherwood appeared to give Benteke, and the entire team, licence to do pretty much what they wanted, so Benteke decided to score lots of goals. He was imperious, very much the form striker in the Premier League. That was the part that gave me a glimmer of hope that I’d found the logic. I never ever want Brendan Rodgers to look at Tim Sherwood and think “Yeah, I’ll do what he’s doing.”, but on a simpler scale, Rodgers does like to give his team freedom to play on instinct, especially in attack. However, I also don’t want us to invest so heavily in a striker who only thrives in certain situations under certain instruction, or lack of. For that money and what we need, I’d want someone who will at least be a 7/10 even if the rest of the team is falling apart around him.
If there are any Aston Villa fans reading, first of all welcome, second of all stop beating us at Anfield you dicks, and third of all this is not me saying Benteke is not good enough for Liverpool, or just turning my nose up at him because he’s not coming from a Real Madrid or a Hoffenheim. He’s outstanding at what he does, it’s just that to me, what he does is of no use to a Brendan Rodgers Liverpool team. I think he’d thrive at Chelsea or United, or probably even in a Jurgen Klopp Liverpool side.
Benteke ‘can’ run, he has ‘decent’ pace, he ‘can’ link up play, he ‘can’ press, he ‘can’ play off the shoulder if need be. However, I don’t want our main striker to just be able to do those things. I want him to be the absolute boss at them. I don’t want a man who just ‘can’, I want a man who is a specialist at everything we do best.
If I haven’t made it clear enough already, I simply cannot understand how after the things he’s seen and experienced in his time at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers hasn’t come to the conclusion that trying his hardest to replicate Suarez or Sturridge is the way forward. Of course you can’t replicate Suarez, but I don’t understand how the next solution is to go after someone who is nothing like him at all.
You look around and they are there. The obvious candidates have been mooted, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, even Carlos Bacca. Any one of those would make infinitely more sense to me than Benteke does. I read an interesting discussion on Twitter the other day that brought up Saido Berahino’s name. It occurred to me that I’d even rather have him over Benteke. Overall the Belgian is a better player, but for what Liverpool need and how the team needs its strikers to play, Berahino would be far better suited. Just a shame he has an agent who is to football what Captain Hook is to rectal thermometry.
Rodgers is all in on this decision. It could make him or break him. Assuming this deal does happen, then for his sake, and mine, and ours, I really hope that the Premier League manager is right about this, and this simpleton with a keyboard is very wrong (it’s been known to happen).
Don’t worry, by the time the season starts, I’m sure I’ll have found that logic. Keep an eye out for a tweet from me along the lines of ‘The Kop has a new hero! #Benteke-taka’.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Couldn’t agree more on this. Don’t think Benteke is a bad player, far from it, just don’t think he suits us and I’m not sold on him at all.
By some accounts we’ve personal terms agreed with him already and it’s now just down to agreeing a price with Villa. Pretty much like the Sterling deal they won’t sell until their price is met and who can fault him for that but £32.5 mil is ALOT of money!!!
So why haven’t we just paid it!! Clearly he’s our first choice striker, who wants to join us and we know the price it will take to get him. While we wait about other options like Tevez, Bacca, Martinez, Vietto have now gone.
Lacazette and Aubameyang who I believe are more suitable to our game, are better and are reportedly cheaper are still out there and particularly in Lacazettes case, reportedly available. Everything I’ve seen and read about these 2 players suggests they would fit in with us perfectly. They could play in any of the front 3 positions unlike Benteke who is only a central striker. Perhaps it’s because we KNOW Benteke wants to join us that’s we are hound dogging this.
I really hope we don’t regret putting all our eggs in the Benteke basket!
Every day since we signed Firmino, i’ve woken up every day desperately searching for just one more piece of good news so i can really look forward to the new season, and every day all i get is bloody Benteke. Will he even play if Sturridge is fit ? I’d honestly rather see Ings on the pitch.
One of the reasons that Liverpool have been able to get transfer business done early this year with minimum fuss is that they have clearly worked to identify players who were keen to come and play for us, and were not going to turn us down last minute for a team with CL football to offer.
A lot of people seem to feel Lacazette or Aubameyang would be better options than Benteke. That might be the case, but would they come? Our recruitment team are clearly aware of these players, so it is quite likely that they have already sounded out their agents to ascertain if they are open to a transfer. If they have done that and have been knocked back, Liverpool are clearly not going to waste everyone’s time putting in bid. Rather they will focus on targets that are achievable.
Good to see a fair few using a bit of common sense..I am not the biggest fan of Benteke.His main problem is his consistency and his inability to remain part of the game for the whole 90min.When we are building a high pressing team,you need strikers who can do the job week in week out..
But i dont like when people quibble on his ability.The boy has got loads of talent.Heck we should have gone for him last year instead of buying Balotelli and lambert.And he wants to play for us.
Infact there is a growing chorus from United fans to go for Benteke.
If Lacazatte and Aubameyang are not achievable just go for Benteke.But get it done in the next 10 days.
Nailed my feelings on Benteke, David. Keep reading and hearing this Lacazette’s name everywhere but never seen him. If he plays anything like a fit Daniel Sturridge we should move heaven and earth for him.
Problem is that’s not what Lacazette is. Sturridge can get scoring opportunities for himself in the best league in the world.
Lacazette’s shots attempted per game is more fitting that of Danny Ings last year, than Sturridge. 8 of Lacazette’s goals came via penalty, and most of the rest of the difference between his 13-14 and 14-15 come via an unsustainable on target rate (unless he’s the new Messi, which he’s not).
Ironically, or perhaps not, Sterling’s 13-14 had the same on target rate (67%) and he wasn’t able to sustain that either. Because no one is, except Messi. That’s why he’s Messi.
Lacazette has a ton of red flags — low shot rate, high on target rate, high rate of 14-15 goals via penalty, never played above Ligue 1, advanced age for a breakout in a lower league (Henry and Hazard broke out at much younger ages, for example). It would be unwise to bet on Lacazette to match his goal total even if he stays with Lyon.
David, thanks again for articulating my thought process! I literally couldn’t agree more.
For me, Lacazette is the way to spend the inevitable Sterling cash. He has been big on making the Euro 2016 squad for France, which is fairly packed with attacking talent. PSG already have Ibra and Cavani, so that’s a non-starter. Not breaking into Bayern’s attack. Realistically, he would have to push Giroud out of his spot at Arsenal, and I don’t know if Wenger has the stomach for that.
Lacazette would be a great way to waste some of the money spent on Sterling.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m really excited about Benteke. When I look at the squad we’ve currently got, I honestly feel there is no way Liverpool won’t score goals,. Adding Benteke simply adds a massive goal threat up front,the lad scores, plain and simple and if Rodgers wants him who are we to question him.
Miss Reddy ( I saw the first name in the article just don’t wanna scrawl up. Remember the last name though as my high school English teacher was a Mrs Reddy.) has said in the past that its not her duty to provide names of alternatives as there are people being payed by the club to identify players, well they have, his name Benteke, Christian Benteke. Seriously though, Rodgers really wants him and he is one of those people payed by the club to pick and choose and he feels Benteke is the man who fits his plans going forward so how are we here second guessing him?
Ofcourse if Balotelli stays then my opinion is that we should refrain from signing anymore strikers for the moment. Balotelli isn’t effective alone ,he doesn’ t have the skillset yet to lead a line alone, but,If we are all honest and not too bitter about his depressing goalscoring record for Liverpool, we’ll admit that he was a menace playing in a two with Ibrahimovic or Aguerro.
Danny Ings is one Im also very excited about, I like the way he carries himself on the pitch, he’s got good feet and is quite good at sniffing out a chance so I feel he deserves a crack at it.
Either way, I feel we have team that can at the very least acquit itself well in europe and still get 5th. If we can build good momentum in Europa from the start I feel we can win it.
Boy, am I ever tired of this logic.
It assumes that there’s only one way Rodgers wants to play, even though we already know that’s false!
Here’s what I ask people (and never get an answer) that go down this path: explain Danny Graham. Rodgers got the absolute most from Graham that anyone has gotten or will get. 12 Premier League goals in a season. He’s got 6 in 78 the rest of his career. Graham actually is a target man.
I think Rodgers’ comments as well as actions write him down a pragmatist — he’ll set out the side the way thinks he needs to in order to win. Last year’s team led the league in shots outside the penalty box, but was only 5th in shots in it. Benteke gets shots in the box — that’s pretty much the only place he gets them — as much as players like Van Persie, Costa, and Giroud.
No, Benteke isn’t much like Sturridge, and that’s a good thing! People seem to be assuming Sturridge will never play again and will end up a wheelchair. Modern medicine and rehabilitation techniques being what they are, it’s far more likely he’ll come back as good or almost as good as he was. The bigger obstacle is mental. But you should prepare with him in mind, not with the idea of replacing him like for like.
Comes down to this: who’s the best striker on the market this summer that’s available to Liverpool? And it’s Benteke. 1 in 2 striker over 3 years, 40+ goals in that time (more than Rooney, more than Giroud) despite an Achilles injury. Still with his best years to come.
If it turns out Rodgers cannot use him well, he’ll be fired by December. But Liverpool will still have a talent superior to whatever else they would buy to “fit a system” that we don’t know exists.
I agree with the article above so you must assume Rodgers has something up his sleeve. The thing that worries me is that he’s a bit of a crock – always got a sick note. Between him and Sturridge they might play half the season together.