There have been a host of Belgian footballers that have consistently made the headlines this season for their outstanding performances for their clubs in the Premier League, but none of them have carried the fortunes of a club in a relegation dog fight and still received glowing plaudits like Christian Benteke.
His match winning prowess are invaluable for a club like Aston Villa who need players to lead the club to safety, 20 year old Benteke is taking the initiative with Aston Villa getting points every time Benteke has scored so far this season.
The highlight so far in his Villa career was a sensational performance away at Anfield where his combination of creativity and athleticism demolished the Reds with the Belgian scoring two goals and assisting another to complete a shock result.
But seven days later he was the lone striker as Aston Villa surrendered to an eight goal defeat away at Chelsea. After all the deserved praise from the previous weekend, Benteke was smothered by Ivanovic and Cahill leading for Benteke to play “off the shoulder” far too often and was constantly offside.
Christian Benteke was a late transfer from Belgian club Genk where he had scored 19 goals in 41 games in the 2011-12 season. 7 million was steep figure for a player with little experience at such a competitive level that the Premier League demands week after week.
Benteke was introduced to the Premier League at Villa Park in the fixture versus an in form Swansea City. Benteke had an instant impact as a he scored coming on as a late sub. At the early stages of his career, his place in the Villa starting lineup was questioned as his first touch seemed heavy while a proven Premier League striker in Darren Bent didn’t even make the substitute bench.
Benteke established himself as the spearhead of the Aston Villa attack in the absence of Darren Bent with goals in important matches such as the equaliser versus Norwich and the late winner versus Reading.
One of the standout games for Benteke in a Villa shirt was in the Capital One Cup where after 85 minutes he had bulldozed through the usually air tight Norwich defence. His subtle combination play with Andres Weimann led to him unselfishly playing in the Austrian for his second goal of the night, while scoring from 20 yards himself in the 90th minute to complete a 4-1 victory.
December 15th was the date where I feel that Benteke began to really stand out. The Claret and Blue’s encountered Liverpool at Anfield. Villa needed a win as they were slowly creeping into the relegation zone at this time. Lambert changed Villa’s system to shore up the backline by changing to 5-3-2 counter attacking system.
Aston Villa lined out with the youngest average age for a starting eleven this season but the roars of the Kop didn’t affect them. Suddenly Benteke nonchalantly pushed the ball out of his feet and unleashed a low shot inside Pepe Reina’s near post from 25 yards out.
The Belgian then turned provider when in arguably the best team goal of the season he raced onto a Weimann pass, then returning the play to Weimann through a sublime backheel for Weimann to score. In the second half, Benteke collected a sloppy Joe Cole pass and bounced off a Martin Skrtel challenge before slotting past the helpless Reina.
The Christmas period left Villa with zero goals and thirteen conceded so that in itself states that Benteke didn’t influence games as much as he would have liked during this period. But he has scored in consecutive away games against Swansea and the opener, a stunning shot coming in at 68mph from 28 yards out in the local derby versus West Brom. In the second leg of the of the Capital One Cup tie with Bradford, Benteke despite scoring the opener was on the losing side over both legs.
Benteke has impressed me in his debut season by finding consistent goalscoring form but can still improve in his timing of runs and hold up play. His strength and aerial ability give him great tools for goalscoring, which he has used to score seven premier league goals this season.
Aston Villa have won five and drawn four in of the nine games Benteke has scored in for all competitions. Expect top clubs to be monitoring his situation at Villa over the summer if he continues this form for the rest of the season.
Written by Daire Kilkelly
Follow him on Twitter @DaireKilkelly1
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