Is Christian Benteke a solution for Wolves?

Rajasik Mukherjee
By Rajasik Mukherjee
10 Min Read
Christian-Benteke-Wolves

Wolverhampton Wanderers are planning a shock move for Premier League veteran Christian Benteke, reports The Sun. The Wolves had a disappointing last season as they barely managed to finish in the top half of the table. To make matters worse, they had a terrible goalscoring record with just 38 goals scored last season. Only the three relegated clubs had fewer goals scored. Needless to say, the Premier League has a lot to do in front of the woodwork. With the likes of West Ham, and Aston Villa evidently improving their squad, Wolves will have to sweat a lot on the pitch to fight for a top 6 finish. Due to the loan departure of Fabio Silva, Lage is currently critically short on attacking alternatives ahead of the new season, and it appears that the Old Gold are in serious need of some reinforcements before their season opener against Leeds United.

A smart signing or a gamble?

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Benteke’s record for Crystal Palace is far from being impressive. However, the Belgian has spent a decade in the Premier League and has tried his luck at clubs like Aston Villa and Liverpool. He has been plying his trade at Crystal Palace since 2016. In 177 appearances while playing with the Eagles, he has scored 37 goals. Given that his contract still has one more season left, there might be more to come. However, his previous stint with other Premier League clubs has rekindled hopes of him gaining his first form under Bruno Lage’s coaching. Raul Jimenez would naturally not be as well-suited to being a target man with his fractured skull, and the Mexican would undoubtedly have a lot less burden on him if Benteke landed at Molineux. His aerial abilities would certainly offer Lage something different in attack.

Silva has had difficulties thus far, but the fact that his contract was extended shows that they have hope for him. Wolves may need a stopgap measure, though, as he develops with Anderlecht in Benteke’s native Belgium. That being said, a Benteke trade might really make sense. Even though he might not be the main character, he has the skills and abilities to be helpful.

Will Christian Benteke be the main man?

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In Wolves’ preseason this month, Lage has been deploying a fluid 4-3-3 system or 4-2-3-1. It is understandable why Lage prefers to play with a back four. He managed S.L. Benfica to remarkable goal-scoring success using a 4-4-2 style. While at Wolves, the 46-year-old hasn’t got access to the players who fit the style of play he genuinely wants to employ. He can now mold the team into his own with the addition of Irish defender Nathan Collins. The Portuguese already have three great box-to-box midfielders in Ruben Neves and Moutinho, and Dendoncker is a decent backup. Last season, Mexican Raul Jimenez was Wolves’ highest goalscorer with just 6 goals. The return of Traore from his loan spell and Neto from injury will most probably pave the way for the above-mentioned players as the main men at the top. While Podence, Hee-Chan, Gibbs-White will have to fight for their place.

Benteke is 31 and will be on high wages, but his transfer is not expected to break the bank. He is certainly not an upgrade over Jimenez, and neither is he a long-term solution for the Wolves. The Belgian is a complete striker, an out-and-out center-forward, Benteke will not provide Lage a better option but a different option at the top. He is a fantastic candidate to be your main striker because of his ability to play a physical and technical style of football. One of the best footballers in the air, Benteke averages almost 7 aerial duels per game, which keeps him in the 95th percentile among Europe’s top 5 leagues. Christian Benteke is the ideal center-forward since he has great finishing skills and superb heading ability. He is a strong player who knows how to use that strength to protect the ball or create openings for his teammates. According to fbref, he attempted around 3 passes per 90 minutes with his head, which keeps him in the 94th percentile. The forward uses his height well to defend and clear threatening balls. Last season in the league, his clearances per 90 made him in the 99th percentile. He also has an impressive 60% of aerial duels won in the league. 

Does he fit into Bruno Lage’s principles?

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Wolverhampton Wanderers believed their new manager would have the zeal to transform the team back into one that could contend for the Europa League after Nuno Espirito Santo left the club at the end of the last campaign. Despite not being the most eye-catching hire, Bruno Lage has exceeded fans’ expectations by elevating Wolves’ defence to the top of the league. With the addition of new talent, Nathan Collins from Burnley, Lage will have little to no headache regarding his defence. The loan exit of Fabio Silva has surely opened up a vacancy at the top of the attack, with Jimenez being the only one available. 

A common style of attack for the Wolves has been when a center-midfielder passes the ball forward to an attacking midfielder, who then bounces it back with a one-touch. This is one of their most common patterns. As shown by his stats earlier, Benteke could be the perfect man to be the target man in this scenario. Earlier, Jimenez played the role, but his head injury has raised concerns over his heading abilities. However, the area where Jimenez excelled in this area was fueled by his underappreciated combination of quickness and poise, and he played especially well with his back to the goal. Benteke’s forward runs can be viewed as one of his flaws. He can’t make a firm judgment at the end of his forward runs because of his poor speed. He seems to lack physical agility, quickness, and acceleration. Since his essential football principles have already been established at this point in his career, it will be difficult for him to improve these aspects.

Another significant area where Benteke will find it difficult to cope with is pressing. Often, Wolves’ main striker, Jimenez, would press hard right from a goal kick. He was ably supported by his Podence and Neto, or Hee-Chan, who would force the opposition to go long. Both Podence and Jimenez averaged around 16 pressures per game. Francisco Trincao, on loan from Barcelona last season, led the chart of pressures with 23 pressures per game. Christian Benteke, in this regard, falls horribly behind with just 9 pressures per 90. 

Conclusion

Crystal Palace finished 12 last season however praises kept coming on for their manager, Patrick Viera. Viera did appreciate Benteke last season, highlighting his importance to the squad. The Eagles already have a lot of options upfront going into the new season. J.P. Mateta, Zaha, Edward, Ayew, among others, As was reflected in his performance against Manchester United, Malcolm Ebiowei has also been an exciting addition. Wolves, on the other hand, require more depth in their attack. Last season, Raul Jimenez and Hwang Hee-chan primarily shared the duties. Wolves’ speedster, Adama Traore, will be returning to the side after his loan spell ended at Barcelona. Podence and Pedro Neto are among others to provide competition upfront.

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