With a paltry three Premier League goals in thirty appearances last season, Christian Benteke found himself on the bench at Selhurst Park, and sparked fury when taking a penalty away from Luka Milivojevic before going on to miss. It is fair to say last season was a nightmare for the powerful centre-forward.
Signed from Liverpool for £27m, Palace fans hoped he would rediscover the form which saw him earn his transfer to Liverpool in the first place, after putting many teams to the sword for Aston Villa.
In his first season, Benteke did net fifteen league goals, despite looking a shadow of the man who was firing them in for the Midlands outfit. A decent return on the investment perhaps, but truthfully the majority of the Palace faithful expected more.
The woeful form Benteke endured in the 2017/18 campaign came as a shock, though. With the Eagles failing to find the net in their first seven games, the lone target man Benteke took a large portion of the blame. Not only was he failing to find the net, missing twenty ‘big chances’, but his hold up play was also poor.
But with two years left remaining on his deal, Hodgson needs to find a solution to get Palace’s record transfer firing again. The former England manager has a variety of options open to him, and he will need to re-think his current approach if the Selhurst Park club are to ever see the best of Benteke in South London…
As a lone forward, Benteke often became a by-product of boring, predictable football at Palace with no end product. Premier League defences quickly picked up on Palace’s strategy of direct balls into the towering striker, as he cut a frustrated figure.
However, when he worked in close proximity with Andreas Weimann at Aston Villa, Benteke found the net nineteen times in the league in 2012/13, forming an excellent understanding with the Austrian. The two forwards complimented each other’s style of play, the highlight of which being a 3-1 win at Anfield with Benteke scoring two and Weimann bagging the other – the two strikers assisting each other with neat football.
With Connor Wickham returning from a long-term injury this summer, it is possible the pair could form the same kind of relationship as Benteke enjoyed with Weimann in a Villa shirt. If Wickham doesn’t work out as a front partner then Moussa Dembele, reportedly available from Celtic, would be the perfect compliment to Benteke.
Transfermarkt value Dembele at just £5.4m but it would surely take at least four times that fee to prise him away from Celtic Park.
Benteke is a dominant player in the air. If Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend were to play in a more traditional ‘winger’ role, getting to the byline and whipping balls into Benteke’s path, rather than looking to cut inside and shoot, this would much more readily play to Benteke’s strengths.
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The current system leads to confusion between players with different strengths who are on different wavelengths to each other. Aston Villa set up with their play geared towards the big forward and if Palace did the same, they may start to reap the rewards.
Patrick van Aanholt, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Joel Ward are unlikely to have the quality of cross needed to unlock Benteke’s aerial potential.
Signing full-backs with the quality to get forward and produce pinpoint crosses into the box could pay dividends for Palace in their quest to get Benteke firing again. Currently, the Belgian may feel he isn’t getting the service he requires to get back into goal scoring form.
Which solution do you think Palace need to employ to get Benteke firing again? Let us know by voting below…