Since Crystal Palace emerged as serious contenders in the snail’s-pace race to sign Christian Benteke, it was perhaps inevitable that West Bromwich Albion would toss their hat into the ring.
A Chinese consortium bought out the Baggies last week, bolstering their finances in timely fashion ahead of the final weeks of the transfer window.
It’s thought Liverpool want to recoup the entire £32.5m they paid to sign Benteke last summer, so West Brom will have to veritably shatter their existing record outlay – £12m paid for Salomon Rondon – if they are to lure him to The Hawthorns.
But despite the unprecedented finances involved in the deal from their perspective, the Throstles would be fools not to meet the Reds’ demands and their rumoured target would be just as dimwitted if he turned them down.
Benteke may have very little hope of winning back his place in the Liverpool team, but his marginalisation at Anfield remains a mystery.
He may have only found the net nine times in the Premier League, but that tally makes him their second-most prolific player of 2015/16 and he needed just 14 starts to post it.
It’s a return that reaffirms the Belgian’s status as a proven scorer of top-tier goals and playing in a team that properly utilises his strengths is only going to be a benefit.
Benteke thrives off crosses, as a former coach once pointed out ahead of his move to Liverpool:
“There’s no point going to a club where they don’t cross the ball. All he’s got to do is look at history and see what has happened to players who have left other clubs. They’re going to pastures new, bigger and better clubs, and they don’t actually play, so then they end up looking for a new home again.”
Say what you will about the wisdom of Tim Sherwood, but he nailed that one.
The direct approach Baggies boss Tony Pulis favours has been and still is widely criticised, but for a forward who craves balls into the box, it’s the ideal system.
Last term, only three teams made more crosses than West Brom’s 845.
One of the teams who out-crossed the Midlanders were Crystal Palace who, with 969, tossed the greatest number of balls into the penalty area in the previous season.
However, their success rate of 23% was almost identical to that of West Brom’s, whose crosses proved accurate 22.7% of the time.
Furthermore, 34% of the chances they created were in the centre of the pitch. Only 28% of Palace’s opportunities were fashioned in the area where a number nine is most often found lurking
On top of all that, West Brom’s signing of Matt Phillips suggests they’ll be looking to sling even more deliveries into the box this season. The former QPR winger whipped in over six crosses per match on average when he was last in the Premier League.
Having Benteke on the end of these would immeasurably improve West Brom’s relatively minor goal threat.
They finished 14th last time around despite finding the net just 34 times – imagine how well they could do with a lethal marksman leading the line.