Crystal Palace came away with a well-earned point from their trip to the Emirates to take on Arsenal in the Premier League on Thursday night.
Arsenal failed to offer much going forwards as they were largely kept in check by a resolute Roy Hodgson side.
Whilst Eberechi Eze may receive most of the plaudits for yet another impressive performance on the left wing and Vicente Guaita made four vital saves, there’s no doubting that Hodgson will have been delighted with Christian Benteke’s latest display as he proved to be a massive handful for the Arsenal defence.
As per SofaScore, Benteke – to his credit – was given a high 7.5 grade for his efforts, which was higher than both the lively Eze and his strike partner, Wilfried Zaha, who received ratings of 7.4 and 6.6 for their performances respectively.
Diminutive right-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles was clearly targeted as the Belgian striker was placed directly against him with surging runs towards the back post, with the 30-year-old coming out on top by winning eight out of his 12 individual battles in total. By comparison, Maitland-Niles only won five out of his ten duels overall, and it’s no wonder he was hauled off nearly halfway through the second half.
None of the Palace players looked more alive in the box than Benteke, as he took six shots in total, including two on target, which was more shots than any other player last night and more than double the amount attempted by Zaha, who would normally be expected to be the focal point in the Palace attack.
Perhaps Benteke should’ve buried his chances, but he still gave the Arsenal defence a seriously hard time, as he successfully completed two dribbles from the same amount of attempts (100%), which far exceeded his meagre average of 0.3 per game, meaning he was playing better than usual from an attacking perspective.
He also made one tackle and one clearance, showing he wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work to help Palace keep their first clean sheet since the 2-0 victory over Premier League strugglers Sheffield United at Selhurst Park earlier this month.
Whilst Eze will perhaps steal the spotlight for leading the Palace counter-attack, this doesn’t mean that Benteke’s contributions should be totally ignored, either, and as such, it’s fair to say that he was Hodgson’s unsung hero against Arsenal.
The £8m-rated Belgium international has often been criticised for his lack of goals but it would be remiss to ignore his importance to this Palace side. With his contract set to expire in the summer, Benteke has been heavily linked with the Selhurst Park exit, but it would be a surprise to see him leave, given his resurgence and dramatic turnaround in form.
AND in other news, Crystal Palace shouldn’t renew Nathaniel Clyne’s contract…