At times he appeared isolated. Simon Mignolet would punt the ball forward, and he would knock it down, but then there would be no nearby teammate and possession would go straight to Bournemouth. It wasn’t Christian Benteke’s fault, but it felt rather reminiscent of the way Liverpool have so often left their lone striker isolated in recent seasons.
When he was given chances to link up with his teammates, though—and particularly when the ball was fed to him on the ground or sent down channels into space—he impressed. The issue, if there was an issue, was less with Benteke and more with the at times agrarian style Liverpool seemed to revert to, with the hosts at times ending up looking more Wimbledon than Barcelona.
Still, the early impression is that there is enough technical talent there to benefit Liverpool in a way so many of their recent striker signings haven’t. The question now, though, is whether Liverpool will be able to figure out how to get the best out of Benteke consistently, whether by getting more support around him for knockdowns or avoiding the temptation to always hit it long.
There’s talent, though. And clear promise is spite of any concerns. Some of his link-up play with Coutinho in particular was superb, and he was the most aware player on the pitch when he scored the game’s only goal—even if Coutinho showed a shocking naivety that should have had it whistled offside. His power and hold-up play with the ball at his feet also got better as the night wore on.
It wasn’t a perfect evening by any stretch, but there was enough there to think Benteke can make a real difference for the Reds. As with so many of those other recent striker signings, though, there remain questions about Liverpool being able to find a way to get the best out of him.
Video by MrBoywunder