Are you happy about Benteke?
The first thing to state about this issue is that I've always believed that the club should back the manager. I felt there was clear justification to remove him at the end of the season and, despite liking and rating him, would have sent him packing once Jurgen Klopp's availability was confirmed. However, FSG have stood by their man and are therefore committed to backing him or else it's tantamount to telling him to pack his bags anyway. So in that regard, I think this is an important signing.
In terms of the player himself, he's obviously a talent. He is very powerful, great in the air and has good touch and awareness. Best of all though is that he has a one in two record over the last three seasons for Villa. Furthermore, he utterly destroyed us at Anfield in Rodgers' first season, bullying Martin Skrtel to such an extent I literally felt embarrassed to watch.
Unusually, I was sat in the Main Stand in line with the edge of the area that day and Benteke repeatedly turned Skrtel inside out and knocked him all over the place right in front of me. That made a strong impression that I haven't forgotten and I'm therefore not in the daft "He's rubbish" camp that has emerged amongst Reds this summer.
However, what is concerning about this imminent signing is the way Brendan seems to base his transfer targets around performances against us as it has backfired in a number of cases of late; not least with Dejan Lovren. Raising your game against Liverpool is what you'd expect from every player in the league. We need to look at how they do against everyone else as well though.
And in that regard, Benteke's goal record looks good: 49 in 101 over three seasons. However, there are peaks and troughs within that figure with a great first season followed by sporadic purple patches and a serious injury. That said, under Sherwood, he quite clearly began to spark once more - but the issue is why and how.
For me, therein lies the problem. Benteke has predominantly played in a different way to how we operate. He's been asked to feed off service from the flanks and has responded well. However that is emphatically not our game and nor do I see it becoming so either as we simply don't have the players for it.
In fact, to me this transfer smacks of further murky thinking from the manager around his system of play. Last summer we seemed to throw the blueprint out of the window and grab players unsuited to the mobile "diamond plus two" style that had taken us so close to the title. Don't get me wrong, I know there isn't a Luis Mk II out there. However, there are approximations and I think we'd be far better served going for tricky mobile types rather than a (flat track?) bully like Benteke.
That all said, I'll suspend my disbelief and back him to the hilt. Don't be mistaken, though - this almost certainly represents Rodgers' last chance at a Red future because if he doesn't make an investment of this size count, he'll be gone quicker than you can say, "Jurgen to the rescue!"
Let's hope he can set the team up to get the lad firing then because the last thing this club needs is yet another revolution of playing and coaching staff that sees more money flushed down the drain. That's certainly what'll happen if he doesn't.
No pressure there then, Christian! Welcome to Liverpool.
I’m on the fence. I rate Benteke very highly and on his day he’s as good as almost any striker in the Premier League. He’s been unplayable against us a few times and is a much better footballer than he’s given credit for. He’s not just a lump who scores headers and comparisons with Andy Carroll are way off beam and unfair. He’s a clever link player who likes to drop off and get involved in the build up, and he loves a sneaky back heel.
All that said, he also thrives on crosses and Tim Sherwood got the best out of him by getting balls into the box early from wide areas. He didn’t do it by playing wingers who get to the byline and whip crosses over, Sherwood played a midfield diamond and it was the full backs or midfielders who supplied the crosses, often from deep. We have players who can do that, but it’s not been Rodgers’ style and we cross the ball less than anybody else in the league, so will that now change? Presumably it will, otherwise what’s the point in spending so much on Benteke?
It’s not that he can’t be successful without that kind of service, but without it you’re not getting the maximum from the player. Why go for Benteke and have him at 75% effectiveness when you could get someone more suited to how you play and have them at 100% of their capability? It’s like signing a teenage Michael Owen and telling him he’s not allowed to run fast or telling Adam Lallana he can’t do Cruyff turns and run his fingers through his hair every ten seconds.
So I have some doubts about how successful this signing will be, but I’m far from being totally against it. I do like the options we now have in terms of playing either 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 diamond. Benteke could play through the middle on his own, or in a two with Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi or Danny Ings. And if and when Sturridge returns at full capacity there’s no reason they couldn’t form an effective pairing.
I’m not at all worried that Benteke will be a complete flop because he’s too good a player for that. He’ll either be brilliant or average.
Before I even start I should say that I hope Benteke is a roaring success at Liverpool and he scores loads of goals for us. Right, now that I’ve said that I have to admit that I’m completely underwhelmed by Benteke signing for Liverpool. I won’t deny that my reasons aren’t grounded in fact or reason but then that’s part of being a football fan isn’t it?
First off, whatever Aston Villa are selling, I’m not buying. Nothing good ever came out of Aston Villa. The last signing we made from there was one of the worst we ever made, I still get shivers watching that player underperforming in games, flat-out disappearing when the going got tough and then don’t forget that the one time he did score, he shushed the Kop. Yes, Stewart Downing’s shadow lingers long over my thoughts on Aston Villa and Liverpool transfers.
Of course this is a completely unreasonable line of thinking and it’s not one that I take completely seriously (although the Downing stuff is all true, he was CRAP) but it does parlay into something else. There’s nothing attractive about signing a player from Aston Villa, they’re a dull team with dull fans who are dull to watch. Now Tactic Timmy did rectify that somewhat last season by making his defenders defend like, well, us for the latter part of the season but still, exciting players don’t come from Villa.
If we’re splashing north of £30 million on a player then I’d like said player to come from a big team and be a big name. Is that shallow? Absolutely but again, there’s a kernel of sense in there (no, there is) because what Benteke really lays bare is that Liverpool’s transfer policy is based on a flawed premise that it’s not the outlay on fee that matters but the wages the player is paid. Liverpool are willing to pay £30 million, that’s great, but surely we can agree that there are other players out there who would cost in the same region but who are better players and would be a better fit for our style of play. The difference between buying a big name player from a Champions League team and someone from a mid-table Premier League team is that a big name player will already be on large wages whereas someone from a mid-table Premier League team is likely to be on a lot less.
In the history of football transfers no player has ever moved clubs for the same wage, they’ve always had an increase. Liverpool don’t want to commit to big wages with a new signing, so they’re happy to increase Benteke’s wage from say 60k to 100k rather than buy a player who wants a raise from something like 150k to 180k. That philosophy is flawed for me as it’ll always mean that the club is compromising its player searches before they’ve even begun.
So I’ll finish as I started. I want nothing more than for this transfer to work out for the player and the club. I hope I’m proven wrong and that my spurious reasoning is shown up. There’s still that nagging doubt in the back of my mind that the club is repeating past mistakes, trying to buy big by identifying players by wage and not by how talented they are. I really hope I’m wrong.