’13 Ways Benteke Improves Liverpool’
by Mike Kennedy
Benteke’s imminent signing has divided opinion. I think his signing is good news. Here’s 13 reasons why.
1) It lifts the Sterling gloom, promptly
There was giddiness after the flurry of early signings but after Sterling’s departure that positivity gave way to a kind of fatalistic pessimism about Liverpool’s current stature and place in the global game. A fallen giant. A selling club. ‘Our best players leave every year.’
Benteke’s signing puts us back on a positive footing quickly. And the speed of the riposte is important for the morale of fans and players.
2) Our squad is undoubtedly enhanced
I can’t remember a time when Liverpool had such a paucity of quality striking options. Forget the fee for a minute (we’ll talk about that later), Benteke’s arrival undoubtedly enhances our squad by giving it extra quality, physicality and goals.
3) Benteke scores goals in England
- In 2012-2013 he played 39 games, scored 23 goals.
- In 2013-2014 he played 28 games, scored 11 goals.
- In 2014-2015 he played 33 games, scored 15 goals.
In 3 seasons at Villa he played 100 games and scored 49 goals. These goals weren’t scored in the French league, or the Dutch league, or in Belgium. The goals were all scored here in England; they’re solid stats, by any measure.
Very few signings can ever be described as ‘100% proven’, but the fact that Benteke has already adjusted to the pace and physicality of the Premier League significantly boosts his chances of success at Liverpool.
4) Benteke’s signing allows us to attack from different angles
Being able to attack with variety is an under-appreciated facet of the game. I’m all for it. Mainly because it keeps the fun going. I like knowing there’s multiple ways we could score and I like having a blend of options on the bench.
Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that the pleasure of football is mostly hope. More options = more hope. I’m on board with this.
5) Benteke will create space for everyone else
Benteke will frequently occupy two -and even three- defenders. That’s huge. We know from Suarez’s time how large and effective the ‘gravity’ around a quality striker can be and the space it creates for team-mates. (Of course Benteke doesn’t have Suarez’s skill, but his impact on the field, in terms of occupying an area of space, can be comparable. Just look at some of our recent games against Villa to see this.)
Benteke’s muscularity and hold-up play can give us a fulcrum to build our attacks around. I’m excited by the concept of our creative midfielders swarming around a bonafide striker who is bull-strong.
With Benteke on the field our attacking line can be 10 yards higher up the pitch. This will create more space for our creative midfielders and allow us to press higher and more aggressively, which means we’ll win the ball back in more dangerous areas.
It’s not just goals that Benteke will add to the team. It’s presence. Even though it’s hard to measure the impact of that, I think the benefit will be self-evident. (Again watch some of our recent games against Villa to see this in action.)
Speaking of which…
6) Liverpool won’t have to play him again
Anyone who saw Benteke’s last 4 appearances against the Reds will vividly remember the menace he carried. He can be an outrageous handful.
Thankfully, we won’t have to play against him again.
7) Benteke’s signing gives us a new poster boy. (Don’t laugh, it’s important.)
The best and most marketable stars are goalscorers. People love a star striker. (You can make a compelling argument that football teams are defined by their strikers.)
If Benteke’s signing ‘works’ then the benefit to the club on and off the field is much larger than if Clyne’s signing ‘works’. A star striker is big news in football terms, big news in commercial terms, big news for ticket sales, big news for TV revenue, big news in every sense.
(And Christ knows, with Carragher, Suarez, Gerrard and Sterling all buggering off Liverpool are a football club in dire need of a new poster boy.)
8) Benteke’s signing is good for Liverpool’s global profile
There’s not many clubs in the world that can drop £32m on a striker. Liverpool are one of them. A £32m signing creates headlines all over the world. (I was in Java when Liverpool signed Andy Carroll and it made the local papers there.) Benteke’s huge fee keeps Liverpool positioned in the headlines of global sport as a serious outfit.
9) Benteke’s best years are ahead of him
Benteke is 24 and he’s also a Big Man. Most Big Men mature in footballing terms later than Small Men and Medium Men. Look at Drogba, Zamora, Carew, Quinn (Niall, not Mickey) and Kevin Davies. Benteke has potentially got 10 years of improvement in him.
(Somewhere in the world, Andy Carroll will be playing devastating football when he’s 30.)
10) As an asset, Benteke’s sell-on value will remain strong
Even if Benteke flops, his sell-on value will remain decent. He’s young, has proven he can score goals in the Premier League and has that most en vogue quality of being Belgian. If he’s a super-flop, we’ll still get £16m-£20m for him in 2 years.
11) Liverpool finally have a set-piece threat
Bingo! At long last we won’t be relying solely on Skrtel.
12) Suddenly 4-5-1 is back on the agenda
We haven’t been able to field an effective 4-5-1 in years and that’s been to our detriment. It’s a brilliant system when deployed at the right time. For example when arresting an opposing team’s momentum, locking a game down in the 5-10 minutes after a goal (to either team), or dogging an awkward away tie in Europe.
I don’t want to see us flooding the midfield every week, but when it’s needed I’d like us to be capable of it.
13) Benteke’s signing creates momentum.
Momentum is the most important thing in football. Not just within individual games, and week-to-week for the team, but at a club-wide institutional level. Benteke’s signing gets us over the Sterling speed bump and keeps the snowball rolling in a general direction we can all approve of. (Liverpool making big signings and adding goals to the team.)
The 4 Most Common Benteke Complaints
I believe that all of the above things are true, so I’m pleased we’ve signed Benteke. But not everyone is.
As I see it there’s broadly 4 reasons why some fans are complaining about Liverpool signing Benteke.
1) He doesn’t fit our style.
I get this point, I do, but was ‘our style’ good last season? Was it even evident? Last season how effective was ‘our style’? I’m happy to try something new.
2) We’re making the Carroll mistake again.
Again I understand this, but Benteke isn’t Carroll. He’s more mobile, more talented and has a better track record.
3) The money should’ve been spent elsewhere, on someone better.
Yes there might have been a better signing (there’s always a better signing somewhere), but how many elite strikers want to come to the current Liverpool? And how many are proven in the Premier League? Benteke is a decent option.
4) He’s not worth £32m.
‘Worth’ is a nebulous concept, but I take the point. In my eyes Benteke’s natural value in around £25m. So maybe we’ve overpaid by £7m. Honestly, I’m not that bothered. That’s one Luis Alberto. £7m doesn’t significantly move the dial in either direction, so who cares?
Also as I said on twitter yesterday, if Sterling is worth £49m then Benteke is worth £32m. (With the huge jump in both domestic TV revenue and Champions League money I think the sands have shifted in the transfer market. That happens every few years and it’s happening now. A rising tide lifts all ships; I think £32m is the new £25m.)
There are plenty of valid doubts and tentative caveats around every signing (less than 50% of signings are successful), but for all the reasons I’ve outlined here I think this is a positive signing for the club. Our prospects this season with Benteke are better than our prospects without Benteke. That’ll do for me.
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