Since his summer move to Liverpool Christian Benteke has been weighed down by the fee The Reds paid Aston Villa. Rightly or wrongly when you sign a striker for £32.5 million you have high expectations. I understand transfer fees don’t always represent the quality of a player, the fee is decided by the selling club or a minimum release clause. Both can be grossly inflated due to their importance to their current team.
We’re all familiar with Benteke having seen him play in England for three seasons. His strengths are clear for all to see. It’s not a hidden secret that when you sign players from within the Premier League you tend to overpay. The Premier League proven premium. With this in mind It’s natural to find yourself weighing up strikers all over Europe who would have cost less than the Liverpool number 9 and in theory offer more than the Belgian.
Would Inter’s Mauro Icardi have been cheaper?
Marseille’s Michy Batshuayi definitely would have been cheaper and is eerily similar to Daniel Sturridge. Staying in France I’m sure Lyon would have entertained offers for Alexandre Lacazette had the money been right.
If Barcelona sold Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal for £35 million would Dortmund have been tempted to sell Marco Reus for a similar fee?
All valid thoughts but Liverpool, and more specifically Brendan Rodgers, seemed convinced with the merits of Christian Benteke and the club paid his release clause to bring him to Anfield.
I was against the signing, I wasn’t convinced we’d play to his strengths and if we did it wouldn’t be to the strengths of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. In his opening games though I was surprised by what I’d witnessed. Benteke was putting in a lot of effort, he was linking the play better than I thought he would and those opening 30 minutes against Arsenal had me feeling optimistic for the rest of the season.
Benteke found his feet quick enough. The striker found the back of the net in only his second game when Liverpool won 1-0 against Bournemouth. He showed great instincts to bundle the ball home. His next goal arrived as Manchester United defeated Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford. The strikeR scored a spectacular consolation goal. Injury stalled his progression with his new club and his next goal came in a 1-1 draw with Southampton. It was a goal you’d associate with Benteke, a cross from the right and the strike expertly guided the ball home to put Liverpool ahead. In the following game he came off the bench against Chelsea to record yet another type of goal. A deflection played a part but he showed good feet and a cool head to put the ball past Asmir Begovic.
He’s then rounded off 2015 with winning goals against Leicester City and Sunderland. An instinctive first time finish against Leicester was matched by a surprisingly calm finish in the latter match.
His goals have directly lead to Liverpool earning 10 of their 30 points this season.
On paper it’s not a bad return, 6 goals in 1051 minutes. The minutes played equates to 11.6 matches, so despite struggling with injuries he’s managing to maintain that 1 goal every 2 game ratio. He’s well on target to hit the 15 league goals Liverpool fans wanted from their striker.
Goals used to be enough for strikers but football has moved on. Strikers are now expected to not just score but to create chances for others contribute off of the ball too. His 65% pass success rate doesn’t help the side. Liverpool have looked much better when they’ve used Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino as an attacking trio.
It started against Arsenal. Yes he impressed me in that game but he also missed an absolute guilt edged chance. He shouldn’t have given Petr Cech a chance with his effort and he should’ve put Liverpool 1-0 up away at the Emirates.
Checking Twitter back then it was full of people praising Benteke for getting into the position to miss it as it was something we’d lacked the season before. They said missing chances like that wasn’t sustainable. I agreed with the latter statement. Surely a Premier League striker couldn’t consistently miss chances of that quality.
Without really going back and watching the games again I can recall Benteke missing big chances against Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Newcastle, West Brom, Leicester and Sunderland. Of those six matches Liverpool lost two of them, drew one and won the other three. Against City, Leicester and Sunderland they were one on one chances. Against Newcastle it was a chance 4 yards from goal that he poked over. Against Palace and WBA he failed to put unchallenged headers on target when it seemed easier to hit the target.
Stats back this observation up. Of the 12 clear cut chances Benteke has had this season he’s only scored 2 of them. I’ve often heard he’s not been serviced very well by the players supporting him but if you look at the numbers Liverpool are creating a clear cut chance for Benteke every 87 minutes but he’s only putting away one of these chances every 525 minutes. Is that good enough?
This isn’t just a player adapting to a new side either. He’s very much been a 1 in 3 CCC kind of guy throughout his Premier League career.
The table above is one of Dan Kennett’s. It’s pretty straightforward, the non-penalty CCC is non-penalty clear cut chances for that player. The non-penalty CCC scored is non-penalty clear cut chances scored.
Of those strikers that qualify for this table Christian Benteke is bottom for converting his clear cut chances. Compare him to Shane Long, the Irish forward has had 3 less clear cut chances but he’s managed to score 7 more of them. Our very own Daniel Sturridge has had 10 more clear cut chances and he’s managed to score 14 more goals than Benteke. The Belgian forward is 0.072 below the leagues average.
Translating the minutes into games the table shows Benteke has played 98 league games, had 54 clear cut chances created for him but only managed to convert 17 of them. Ignoring the price, is this good enough for a striker playing for a side with top 4 aspirations?
I’m grateful Benteke is scoring the harder chances but it’s not sustainable, sooner or later he’s going to have to start putting away the easier chances otherwise it’ll cost Liverpool.