Can Klopp's philosophy get the best out of Benteke?

Off The Ball have live coverage of this weekend's Premier League fixture

BY Raf Diallo 14:11 Friday 11 December 2015, 14:11 11 Dec 2015

Christian Benteke (AP Photo/Jon Super)

If you have some spare bubble wrap this Christmas and also happen to be a Liverpool supporter, it mightn't be the worst idea to donate some to the club, mainly to protect a very fragile Daniel Sturridge.

Oh! And don't pop any of the bubbles before sending them on. With Sturridge injured again after his latest comeback, it puts the onus on Christian Benteke to be among the lead options up front for Jurgen Klopp during the Christmas period. 

The Belgian centre-forward started up front in last Sunday's 2-0 defeat to Newcastle in Philippe Coutinho's absence, and did not appear to be as good a fit as the trio of attacking midfielders that have shone for Klopp in away games before.

Prior to leaving for Valencia, Gary Neville joined Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football after the 4-1 victory at Manchester City to explain how the Reds' narrow three-man forward shape completely over-ran the opposition defence.

But that cannot work as well with Benteke in there, even if Klopp is convinced that the player can press: "Yes, of course, I think he can press. The no. 9 doesn't have to defend the whole pitch, it is to close spaces".

Coutinho is likely to rejoin Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana in a more mobile forward line against West Brom this Sunday, but the question mark is how Benteke fits in when he is deployed either from the bench or rotated.

While not a one-dimensional target man by any means, he is not a perfect fit for Liverpool's new dynamic approach as analyst and ex-Chelsea midfielder Pat Nevin said to Off The Ball recently.

If you look at the narrow approach which worked against City which involved fast-paced, intricate interplay around the box, it is hard to see the Belgian blossoming in those conditions. 

For his aerial threat and power to be used to its fullest advantage, you would need to stretch the play more, rather than being narrow in order to allow for more crosses to be played in and the back-four to be stretched more.

Take the Newcastle match for example; Liverpool did put in an enormous 25 crosses, but when you look at actual chances created, only three of the nine opportunities they carved for themselves came from wide areas - and all were from the left.

If you look at his Premier League goals for Liverpool so far, the one against Southampton was a direct ball in from a deep right position from James Milner which he headed in with aplomb.

It's the type of ball he thrives on, while his finish against Manchester United was an athletically acrobatic effort originating from a right wing ball in from Jordan Ibe:

Similarly, his goal against Bournemouth while Brendan Rodgers was still in charge was another direct ball in:

And as for his goal against Chelsea, it came as the Blues were shell-shocked and trailing 2-1.

But the overall lesson is that a level of directness, particularly from wide positions, works when it comes to feeding Benteke the chances he needs to score.

However, that may unbalance what Klopp is trying to implement and his question will be how much leeway he will want to give the striker in terms of adapting his plans around him long-term.

Liverpool v West Brom is live on Off The Ball this Sunday with kick-off at 4pm. 


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