In recent years, Liverpool fans got used to signing high profile strikers. Every couple of years a new player comes in, carrying the burden of a high price tag and facing the unforgiving jury. Torres and Suarez were the obvious success stories, while Andy Carroll and Balotelli flopped. Benteke’s signing could go both ways depending on the style of football and team setup that Rodgers chooses for next season.
Carroll and Balotelli flopped because they were asked to play a different brand of football than the one they can flourish under. A classic target man that feeds off long balls and crosses, Carroll was asked to play a short passing high tempo game full of delicate touches and intricate passing triangles. Balotelli on the other hand is a player that has never attempted to run the channels and hence was not able to operate as a lone striker in a counter attacking Liverpool side. One can argue that Balotelli is overrated and gets far more credit than what he deserves, yet his better seasons always came when playing off another striker.
The fact that Rodgers is the one signing Benteke, makes it a huge gamble for Liverpool – and in Andy Carroll we have our clue. Benteke is a similar type of player to Carroll, winning the highest percentages of aerial duels and mainly shining when utilised as a target man – and that is what Sherwood did in the second half of last season.
“We cross more balls into the box than any other club in the league and Christian has said that he feeds off crosses” Tim Sherwood on Benteke
Rodgers shunted Carroll out of Liverpool for that sole reason – that his style of play did not fit with Rodgers philosophy. His preferred formation with Fermino and Coutinho behind a lone striker, makes Sturridge, Origi or Ings the obvious choices and effectively leading to Benteke being another expensive flop. Benteke requires wing play, feeds off crosses and is great at holding the ball.
Unfortunately for Benteke, the post Sterling era coupled with their new signings, means Liverpool will most likely play through the middle to accommodate Ferminho and Coutinho in the same team. For Benteke to fit in, Rodgers has potentially one of two options – Sacrifice one of the two Brazilians and play both Markovic and Ibe as their wide players or pair Benteke with another strike partner against lesser opponents. The first scenario is ideal for Benteke and Liverpool fans can look at him as their main scoring option. The second one will allow Liverpool to use him as a forward station, draw the defenders towards him and free up space for his strike partner and attacking midfielders to make runs behind the defensive line.
If Rodgers asks him the same question as Balotelli last season – the evidence does not suggest a different outcome.
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