Benteke’s striking partners Andi Weimann and Gabby Agbonlahor possess pace but do not have the Belgian’s technical quality or talent in terms of associative play, and he is vital to the team in terms of linking play together. The loss of Benteke in the opening Premier League fixtures this season has been felt most acutely during home games where a lot of attacks have lacked direction and cohesion. Villa have struggled to register any shots on target and Benteke’s return to the team has been eagerly anticipated not only by fans, but players alike.
Joe Cole told Aston Villa’s official site that the young Belgian striker reminds him of a mixture between Didier Drogba and ex-Villan, Peter Crouch, “I can see a bit of Didier in him – he’s very strong and powerful. I can also see that he likes the ball to feet and he is elegant with the ball.”
It is perhaps Benteke’s technical skill which most surprises those who do not watch him play regularly. In the 2013/14 season (despite being injured for several months) Benteke played more key passes per game than Lukaku, Soriano, Bacca, Bony, Destro, Strurridge and Icardi with 1.8 key passes. Formidable 26-year-old Chelsea striker Diego Costa, much lauded for his technical ability, played 1.6 key passes per game this season which compares favourably with the Belgian. In the 2012/13 season Benteke played 1.5 key passes per game and averaged 3.1 shots per game, whilst Diego Costa currently also averages 3.1 shots per game this season.
There is of course room for Benteke to improve as a striker.
To reach the levels of a player like Costa, Benteke would need to dominate more games and become more clinical in front of goal. Benteke’s best performances have been in games where he is aggressive and dominating physically, or as Villa fans might say, he is playing in ‘beast’ mode. There are times, however, when the youngster doesn’t assert himself enough or show the kind of street-fighting skulduggery so often exhibited by Costa.
Although these observations are perhaps nit-picking. Benteke has not been surrounded by players such as Eden Hazard, Arda Turan, Koke or Oscar during his time at Aston Villa and he has had to create a lot of attacking opportunities for himself. On his day, the young Belgian is unplayable and although there are a lot of improvements he can make to his game, he is the most complete 23-year-old striker Villa fans have seen for a long time.
Christian Benteke may not be at Diego Costa’s level right now (who is?), but for Aston Villa he is just as important for the team. Welcome back Christian!
Follow Shelley on Twitter – @shelley_ozzy
Benteke stat box by @lucasammr