Liverpool kicked off a busy month of December knowing that if they could continue their improved November form they could push their way firmly into the top four race. Even a title challenge didn’t seem entirely out of the question. That was a month ago.
Today, having failed to carry over that improved form with a draw and two losses in league action, they find themselves adrift mid-table once again. With the games continuing to come thick and fast through January, though, Christian Benteke remains hopeful the Reds can make up ground.
"It's a chance for us to win some games," said Benteke of Liverpool’s busy holiday schedule, which sees them face Leicester, Sunderland, and West Ham over the next two weeks. "Everyone knows that we have a very big squad with a lot of quality. We have to try to put that quality together."
Benteke himself remains one of the biggest question marks when it comes to putting that quality together. Few doubt the big striker’s ability, but half a season after splashing £32.5M on him he continues to look an awkward fit at best, the latest in a growing list of big strikers to struggle at Anfield.
In the Fenway Sports Group era, he is quickly earning his place alongside Andy Carroll, Mario Balotelli, and Rickie Lambert as big number nines who have struggled to integrate themselves. Between the four, the club have now spent £87.5M for 13 league goals in 99 league games.
To call it a disappointing return would be a massive understatement. There is still hope, though, that Benteke can yet come good, and the striker is hoping he will be given the chance to begin to turn things around on Boxing Day when Liverpool face surprise league leaders Leicester City.
"They will want to play and show that they have the quality to play," Benteke said of Liverpool’s opponents this coming Saturday. "That's why they're first in the league. The Premier League is the strongest league in the world. You can see this year it's really strong.
"Of course we have to respect them but when we play them we have to do everything to try to get the three points. I'm feeling good and I want to play because it's a big game. But it's up to the manager and I respect his decision."