Liverpool have finally spent big on a couple of attacking players to make up for the creative and finishing prowess of the formidable Luis Suárez. Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli were earmarked as the pair last season, but form and fitness among other issues limited the impact they could make. They first pair may not have been exactly cheap, but the deals for the second pair could cost the club £20 million more than Lallana and Balotelli. While Balotelli is essentially free to leave the club, Lallana can look forward to making a bigger impact in his second season at Anfield. Last summer Roberto Firmino was reported to be the alternative to Adam Lallana, but now Liverpool have both to presumably join Philippe Coutinho in supplying the club's latest signing: Christian Benteke.
Here's the problem. If Daniel Sturridge is fit and doing Daniel Sturridge things, it is easy to see how the attacking midfield and wide forward pieces fit around him. It's not so clear with Christian Benteke, a striker who possesses dangerous and effective gifts. He hasn't quite captured the imagination of the Liverpool fanbase like Roberto Firmino, something that club legend Jamie Carragher addressed, but there are legitimate reasons that extend beyond the former Liverpool defender's assessment. Firmino combines with the existing squad's strengths in terms of movement and playing style while enabling a potential return to greater intensity and urgency in pressing up the pitch. Then there's the fact that Liverpool at their best under Rodgers have been more direct anyway. Still, can Benteke fit in? Brendan Rodgers thinks so and expressed his confidence in the former Aston Villa striker's suitability after Liverpool ended their pre-season tour with a draw.
There's a number of qualities that he has and he will only improve in his time at the club. I think first and foremost his goals, if you look at his goals record since the time that he's been in the Premier League he's up there with the best in terms of numbers. So that was very important for us. Obviously I've heard and I've seen stuff about the style, 'he won't fit the style of how we play' - I think he'll only complement it and help us. He's a big guy but he's got the attributes that I like in terms of pace and movement and he gets goals, he gets all types of goals. He's great in the air, strong, he can hold the game up, he can play on the counter-attack, he can play whenever the team is deep because he can hold the ball up with his physical strength. As I said, he's a boy that still is improving in his game so I don't think there's any doubt he'll fit our tactical idea of the game and he can be a huge player for us.
Brendan Rodgers, in the fine tradition of managerial vigilance and paranoia, keeps tabs on what's being said and written about the club -- and so he should! In the pre-season tour, Liverpool seem to have adopted an approach where the aim is to press high up the pitch for the first 20 to 30 minutes before dropping off somewhat. Sound familiar? If this is the case, perhaps Benteke can help apply and relieve pressure in both phases. His robust playing style and appetite for moving into goalscoring positions will hopefully result in goals, while having a player who can win the ball in the air or battle for it on the ground provides an outlet for a team that may sit a little deeper at times. Mere conjecture at this stage, but Rodgers has been reportedly interested in the 24-year-old for quite some time so a plan for the player's integration and utilisation is to be expected as well as demanded.
There's no doubt that this is an excellent opportunity for Rodgers to truly have his team free from purported transfer committee "meddling". Rodgers described the owners as "very supportive" during his tenure so this naturally places even more responsibility on the manager's shoulders in what looks to be a crucial fourth season at the club. On the other hand, Benteke and Rodgers can rise together in 2015/16. If Benteke continues to score goals like he did in the last few months of last season, both the club and the manager might be able to wrestle free from the afflictions of last season's disappointing campaign. For Benteke, he'd be entering his mid-twenties as another prolific Liverpool striker. History has shown that attaining such a status brings virtually unmatched respect and adulation for those who can prove themselves worthy.