It hasn’t been the best of starts for Aston Villa. Having watched his team score once in the first two Gameweeks, Paul Lambert boosted his options up front by snapping up Christian Benteke from Belgian side Genk prior to this summer’s transfer deadline. The 21-year-old, who moves to the midlands on a four-year contract for a fee in the region of £7m, is Lambert’s eighth signing since taking over the reins this summer:
Benteke continues Lambert’s recent policy of acquiring younger players from lower leagues or abroad, with a deliberate decision to mainly choose ambition over experience when restructuring his side. The Villa boss sang the praises of his new signing and revealed he expects the youngster to have a real impact up front this term:
Christian is only 21 years of age but already he’s an established Belgian international and he’s had a terrific time at Genk. He’s something very different to what we have here and that added dimension will enhance the football club. A young lad he may be, but he’s definitely a handful. He’s tall, powerful, he has pace and we’ll be stronger with him in the side.
The young Belgian’s career began in his native country at Gent where, as a 17-year-old, he made seven appearances in the 2007-08 season. Benteke then moved to Standard Liege, scoring three goals and providing a couple of assists in nine games before being loaned out to KV Kortrijk midway through the campaign.
Over a couple of seasons he scored 13 goals and provided seven assists in 32 appearances, but Benteke failed to settle upon returning to his parent club; Liege farmed him out to Mechelin in 2010-11 before finally selling him back to Genk before the start of last season. Finally handed a chance to nail down a regular role, Benteke delivered. Returning 10 goals and four assists from 22 appearances in his first season, he continued his storming form earlier this term, with three goals and an assist in five games before Lambert came calling.
Standing six foot five tall, Benteke offers the midlands outfit an extra edge up front, with a raw, physical presence that is sure to unsettle many a Premier League centre-half. He could be just the ally Darren Bent needs to spark his lacklustre season into life – with Lambert utilising Benteke in a similar way to Grant Holt for Norwich last season, Bent will be looking to feed off knock-downs and grab the goals to fire Villa up the table.
Certainly, Lambert’s selection policy so far bodes well for Benteke. Summer signings such as Matt Lowton, Ron Vlaar and Karim El Ahmadi have all started every match and with Nathan Delfouneso loaned out to Blackpool for the season, options up front are minimal – Benteke could well be ahead of Andreas Weimann and Gabby Agbonlahor in the pecking order as Bent’s partner, with plenty of starts looking likely if Lambert continues with a 4-4-2. Service from the flanks will be vital – the likes of Barry Bannan, Brett Holman or Charles N’Zogbia will be tasked with delivering plenty crosses for the new boy to feed upon; Benteke’s aerial ability could perhaps boost their assist potential.
Priced at 6.5 in Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and 7.5 in the Sky Sports game, Benteke’s mid-price appeal is unlikely to pick up many suitors just yet. With a point, two goals and no clean sheets from their first three, it’s understandable that faith in Villa’s Fantasy assets is currently faltering. The next six Gameweeks, however, sees the midlands outfit welcome (SWA, WBA, NOR) to Villa Park and with a trip to Southampton also on their short-term agenda, Lambert’s side are afforded a strong opportunity to quickly turn their season around.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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“I love to attack and I love to go up front...It is a little more difficult than when you are playing centre-back. If you play the way that I want to play, I think my influence is better as a left-back. For the team, it is best that I play as a centre-back. I like to bring the ball out. You need to move the game quickly, and that is one of my qualities as well.”Jan Vertonghen outlines what he feels is his best position for Andre Villas-Boas